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New exhibition on the history of Jews and cannabis opens

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

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

“Highlights” of the exhibit include objects repurposed for cannabis use, such as a bong in the shape of a menorah, and the “Tokin’ Jew” Seder plate.

It was the bong that first caught the interest of Eddy Portnoy, the curator of the exhibition. He asked the maker of the pipe, Grav, to donate a pipe to the Institute as an artifact of Jewish culture.

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

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

This story goes back to the Old Testament in a passage in the Book of Exodus that talks about an altar for burning incense with herbs including Kaneh Bosem, believed to be cannabis, he said.

The exhibition will even show a kind of purchase order for pot from the 12th century. The document, found in a 19th-century synagogue in Cairo, shows the letter writer asking for textiles and hashish in exchange for silver, Portnoy said.

This document and others from the cache will be reproduced for the exhibition, including a poem that mocks people who smoke hash and says, “They eat everything in sight.”

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 the NY Post
An illustration of cannabis from a Hebrew dictionary.
An illustration of cannabis from a Hebrew dictionary.
Helayne Seidman for the NY Post
The exhibition is called "am israel high," a game with the slogan "Bin Yisrael Chai."
The exhibition is called “Am Yisrael High”, a play on the slogan “Am Yisrael Chai”.
Steve Markus

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

The exhibition 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 of marijuana and CBD, believed to have medicinal properties – and Jack Herer, the so-called “Emperor of Hemp” who fought for the legalization of weed.

YIVO’s exhibition opens on May 5 and begins with a panel discussion moderated by Portnoy. The exhibition is titled “Am Yisrael High,” a play on the slogan “Am Yisrael Chai,” meaning “The People of Israel Live.”

A "Tokin' Jew" Seder plate from the exhibition.
A Tokin’ Jew Seder plate from the exhibit.
Helayne Seidman for the NY Post

“The exhibition takes the subject seriously and a lot of research has been done, but being cannabis it was an opportunity to have a little fun with it,” Portnoy said.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/23/new-exhibit-opens-on-history-of-jews-and-cannabis/ New exhibition on the history of Jews and cannabis opens

JACLYN DIAZ

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