Features // January 20, 2021 // Ben Berkowitz

Weed and the Jewish Community

Weed and the Jewish Community
In Jewish theological lore there is a rabbinic commentary of the Secret Tzadik — ל"ו צַדִיקִים — also known as the Lamed Vav Tzadikim. This refers to 36 righteous individuals who are unknown to us and themselves as holders of all that is good and righteous in the world. I choose to believe in this in an abstract sense. The Tzadikim may be 36 people, or perhaps 36 ideas or sources of inspiration, beauty, compassion or kindness. These are all wonderful possibilities, and I know in my heart that cannabis is a conduit for all these good things.  In Israel and throughout the world, Jews are at the forefront of all that is cannabis, expanding on what many of us already know — that there is more to weed than getting high and succumbing to the munchies. Although that's a wonderful aspect of the plant's joy, we all can use some new ideas to take the cannabis industry into the post-prohibition era. Here are a few wonderful examples of Jewish Weed in action.

Whole Kosher

Rabbi Yaakov Cohen came to weed like many parents in a very personal way — his six and a half year old son died from brain cancer in 2014. After traditional medicine wasn’t able to help Elisha’s cancer, the family decided to try cannabis. Elisha's mom Devorah found some YouTube videos from a California doctor who was advising patients to eat the flower raw so there would be no psychotropic effect. They also tried juices and oils. After the loss of their son, Rabbi Yaakov felt a Jewish duty as a father and a leader in his community to help make medical cannabis accessible.  He started Whole Kosher to educate religious Jews who still think of weed as a dangerous drug, hoping to help make medical cannabis more available for those in need. He's given his Whole Kosher approval to cannabis clients like the CBD company Charlotte’s Web, Colorado's Wana Brands, and Los Angeles vegan edibles brand Fruit Slabs.

Jew Who Tokes

Adriana Kertzer is a founding partner in the amazing new Plant Medicine Law Group. Along with her fellow partners Serena Wu and Hadas Alterman, Kertzer has a mission to expand equitable and legal access to plant medicine and help companies in the psychedelic and cannabis industries succeed in a complex, emerging market.  Kertzer was not a frequent cannabis user until fairly recently, when weed legalization and becoming more observant as a Jew seemed to go hand in hand. After a very real spiritual awakening in a neuro-detox called the Brain Spa, Kertzer dreamed up the fabulous Jewish Instagram account Jew Who Tokes. She says she wanted to express her creative and spiritual energy in a way that was not monetized, and that truly celebrated the diversity of the Jewish cannabis community. The result is a mix of so many different Jews who all love weed in their own different ways, much like Humans of New York celebrates the inhabitants of one of the world’s greatest cities. When asked her favorite strain of weed, Adriana decisively answers "Pickle Kush."  This is really the best answer I can imagine, because many Jews love weed — but all Jews love pickles!

Mitzva Wellness

Mitzva Wellness was founded in Los Angeles in 2016 by Jewish parents Shifra and Sender Klein. Their son Yaakov is autistic, and after using edible cannabis he was able to attend school and have a bar mitzvah, which inspired the Kleins to found Mitzva as a medical cannabis outlet for the orthodox community. Mitzva was the first cannabis company to receive an official kosher certification, an arduous process that involves the kosher certification council inspecting every ingredient and all manufacturing and production methods. In 2019, Mitzva transitioned from making THC products to CBD, seeking to do business in a more commercially friendly and less strictly regulated space (get 21% off Mitzva products for the month of January with the code 2021!). It has been both a challenge and a blessing, say the Kleins.  When I ask what her favorite most Jewish weed is, Shifra chooses Kosher Kush, but admits, “I want to come up with something better than that!” Well, we all struggle to find our unique perspective, but sometimes the basic answer is the right one. I can tell you firsthand that Kosher Kush is a lovely ride perfect for both Jews and gentiles to relax and have a break from the current state of the world.   In a short documentary about Mitzva that I shot back in 2018, spiritual leader Danny Maseng of Makom LA, an alternative Jewish Community in Hollywood, shared his feelings on the Judaic response to cannabis use: “Anything that god created that grows on this earth, that can help human beings in healing, in feeling better about themselves, is holy.” I think there is no better way to surmise all of our hopes and wishes that weed and Jews continue their special relationship, benefiting of all of us, and the world in which we live our elevated lives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1Y6s8beTa0