Photo by Patrick Chin

City Guides | 04.28.2022

Discover The Cultural Experience Of Cannabis At New York City’s “Am Yisrael High” Exhibit

At the new "Am Yisrael High" exhibit in New York City, discover how cannabis plays a significant role in Jewish culture.

As we know, uses for the cannabis plant date back to ancient times, civilizations, and religions. References to the plant are still widely available throughout the Bible and traditional Jewish texts, which guests can soon learn more about at the upcoming NYC exhibit, “Am Yisrael High: The Story of Jews and Cannabis.

Historical Significance

The exhibit’s curator, Eddy Portnoy, pointed out how the Am Yisrael High exhibit shines a light on the historical significance of cannabis to the Jewish commuinty.

One of the earliest references to cannabis was in the book of Exodus, which wrote about the different plants burned on the altar during ceremonies, one of which was kaneh bosem, and Portnoy believes it’s a form of the cannabis plant. 

Similarly, different written documents alongside repurposed artifacts will also feature in the exhibit. One of the most interesting finds was a written order or trade to purchase hashish and textiles with silver, reports the New York Post

That document was discovered in the Cairo synagogue in 1800, but the order dates back to the 1200s. Finally, Portnoy pointed out a “weird sort of early 15th-century reference to the munchies” in a poem, which made a few jokes that people who smoke hashish will “eat everything in sight.”

Inside The Exhibit

Photo by
Kindel Media / Pexels

Besides documents and neat artifacts, the Am Yisrael High will also touch on the impact Jewish people have made in the modern cannabis industry. According to the New York Post, the museum will feature contemporary information about industry icons like Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam, the first scientist to successfully isolate THC and CBD. 

Even more notably, the exhibit will also feature information about renowned cannabis advocate Jack Herer, who paved the way for cannabis legalization that landed him his own strain. 

The Jewish Press notes the Am Yisrael High’s announcement, “In this exhibit, we explore some of its roots and the contributions of Jews to the many realms of this versatile herb.”

The physical objects on display will include a “Tokin’ Jew” sedar plate and a menorah-shaped bong. Interestingly, the New York Post reports how the bong was the first object that promoted Portnoy to launch the exhibit. 

After diving deeper into the hunt for artifacts that link cannabis to Jewish culture and history, Portnoy explained, “I began to do research and not only did I find a lot more artifacts … but I discovered this whole history of Jews and cannabis that had really been unknown to me and probably a lot of other people.”

The Am Yisrael High exhibit will open on May 5 at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (15 West 16th Street, NYC) until December 22. Click here for tickets and more information. 

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