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Opening of a new exhibition on the history of Jews and cannabis


A Big Apple research institute has launched a “joint” effort – tracing the roots of marijuana back to the Bible.

The upcoming exhibit at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research near Union Square examines the historical relationship between the Chosen People and cannabis.

Highlights of the exhibit will include items repurposed for cannabis consumption, such as a menorah-shaped bong and the “Tokin’ Jew” seder plate.

It was the bang that first piqued the interest of Eddy Portnoy, the exhibit’s curator. He asked the pipe maker, Grav, to donate it to the institute as an artifact of Jewish culture.

“I figured there were probably more like that,” Portnoy said. “I started researching and not only did I find a lot more artifacts…but I discovered this whole history of Jews and cannabis that was really unknown to me and probably to many others. people.”

Curator Eddy Portnoy with a book of the exhibition.
Helayne Seidman for NY Post
A yarmulke decorated with cannabis leaves.
Helayne Seidman for NY Post

This story goes back to the Old Testament in a passage in the book of Exodus about an altar for burning incense with herbs, including kaneh bosem, believed to be cannabis, a- he declared.

The exhibit will even feature a kind of order form for the pot, dating back to the 1200s. The document, which was found in a Cairo synagogue in the 1800s, shows the writer of the letter requesting textiles and hashish in exchange for money, Portnoy said.

This document, along with others from the cache, will be reproduced for the exhibition, including a poem mocking people who smoke hashish by saying, “They eat everything they see.”

A menorah-shaped bong sparked Portnoy's interest in Jews and cannabis.
A menorah-shaped bong sparked Portnoy’s interest in Jews and cannabis.
Helayne Seidman for NY Post
An illustration of cannabis from a Hebrew dictionary.
An illustration of cannabis from a Hebrew dictionary.
Helayne Seidman for NY Post
The exhibition is called
The exhibit is called “Am Yisrael High,” a play on the slogan “Am Yisrael Chai.”
Steve Marcus

“It’s this weird kind of early 15th century reference to food cravings,” Portnoy said.

The exhibit also talks about notable Jewish figures in the cannabis canon, including Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam, who was the first to isolate THC – the compound that provides the high in marijuana, and CBD which is believed to have medicinal properties. – and Jack Here, the so-called “hemp emperor”, who fought to legalize the herb.

The YIVO exhibition opens on May 5 and begins with a round table moderated by Portnoy. The exhibition is called “Am Yisrael High”, a play on the slogan “Am Yisrael Chai”, which means “The people of Israel live”.

A “Tokin’ Jew” Seder platter from the exhibit.
Helayne Seidman for NY Post

“The exhibit takes the subject matter seriously and a lot of research has been done, but since it’s about cannabis there was the opportunity to have a little fun with it,” Portnoy said.

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