Kate Dehler
Kate Dehler
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Judaism’s Psychedelic Renaissance

This summer’s Jewish Psychedelic Summit heralded the reintegration of acid, ecstasy, and other consciousness-altering drugs into Jewish spiritual life, a tradition as old as the tribe itself

by
Madison Margolin
July 27, 2021
Kate Dehler
Kate Dehler

So far, the best Purim I ever had was spent on psychedelics in Jerusalem. I’d let a sliver of acid dissolve onto my tongue as I got ready in front of a mirror, adjusting my signature pink wig, and draping a silk, purple scarf from northern India—one I’d bought outside the ashram where my father and Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now, had spent time with their guru Neem Karoli Baba—over a borrowed white, floral dress. The microdose of acid had yet to kick in when we left the house to dip in and out of seudahs around Nachlaot, until eventually we made it to a street party where a friend gave me some MDMA.

The energy of Purim alone is enough to engender a psychedelic experience; but as we are commanded, substances like alcohol—or trippier substitutes—are an integral part of the program. I started to feel the blessed combination on the light rail to another party in a hillier, Haredi neighborhood of the city, where I ran into old friends from Brooklyn feasting on a haimish spread of cholent, kugel, and meats, as psytrance music blasted in the background.

It’s impossible to put the energy of the day into words. It felt transcendent. The collective ecstasy permeating Jerusalem was palpable, filling me up with a light, now branded into the memory of my soul.

I’d had what could only be considered a Jewish psychedelic experience. But getting to this point was years, if not a lifetime, in the making.

My introduction to the intersection of psychedelics and Judaism came some five years before that best-ever Purim. I can’t tell you how many rugelach I bought up and down Lee Avenue in the Hasidic neighborhood of South Williamsburg until I found someone who would speak to me. I’d spent days in the sticky heat of mid-August, donning a long skirt, long sleeves, and tights, zipping in and out of kosher bakeries, grocery stores, and takeout spots hoping to snag someone’s ear—the guy behind the counter, or maybe someone in line for checkout—even if just for 10 minutes.

It was my first week of journalism school and every student had to cover an ethnic community. As one of two Jews in the class, I was assigned the ultra-Orthodox beat. Even so, breaking into some of America’s most insular neighborhoods was no small feat (and needless to say, some seven years later I’m relieved my reporting strategy no longer entails buying pastries to spark conversation with potential sources).

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a kosher pizza shop nestled in a corner of the BQE overpass that I met a kid—he must’ve been 19 or 20, with a partially grown beard and thick Yiddish accent—who would talk to me. I joined him outside the stout brick building during his cigarette break, and we agreed to meet up a few days later. Then he flaked.

It couldn’t have been more fortuitous. When we finally linked up for an evening walk along the East River, he apologized for rescheduling: “I was at a psytrance festival,” he told me, naming off the psychedelics he and his friends like to party with: acid, ketamine, mushrooms, molly, the list went on. Since he came from such an observant background, I wondered if Judaism ever factored into his psychedelic trips. I distilled my curiosity into a question, one that’s motivated my life’s work ever since: Can you have a Jewish experience with psychedelics?

The short answer is yes. The long answer could be found at the first-ever Jewish Psychedelic Summit held in May that I co-founded with Natalie Ginsberg, policy and advocacy director at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Shefa, which aims to integrate safe and supported psychedelic use into the Jewish spiritual tradition. With almost 1,500 people in attendance, the summit represented a movement that’s been brewing for decades.

The so-called “psychedelic renaissance” is now in full swing, with research into psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin (the main psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms) en route to FDA approval for the treatment of PTSD, anxiety, depression, addiction, and other conditions while places like Denver, Oakland, and Washington, D.C., have even decriminalized psilocybin and other naturally occurring psychedelic compounds. Meanwhile, Jews of the counterculture who led the way in psychedelic exploration—think Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi or Ram Dass—have set the stage for today’s generation to engage with mystical or transcendent elements within the religion, only to discover that these rituals have indeed been part of Judaism since ancient times (but more on that later).

Judaism needs a kind of ecstatic revival, and psychedelics can be a big part of it.

“For a long time, many Jews have engaged with psychedelics, cannabis, and even drug policy reform,” said Ginsberg, pointing out that Allen Ginsberg (no relation) testified before Congress about LSD, while even Richard Nixon is quoted as saying “it’s a funny thing [that] every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish.” There’s a tradition of Jewish involvement and media representation, she said, especially in the cannabis space (think Jewish stoner archetypes like Seth Rogen), but the Jewish psychedelic community has had less definition, at least in the public sphere.

“The summit was one of the first vehicles to allow more of the community to coalesce because for so long so many people were working in their individual spaces,” Ginsberg continues. She said she’s met at least a dozen rabbis who’ve been in the closet about their passion for psychedelics because they didn’t feel comfortable talking about it, nor did they realize they had peers who were psychonauts, too. “And on the other side of the spectrum, one of the special things we heard after the summit was how many people who were actually disconnected from Judaism, but had a deep medicine practice, were intrigued and wanted to reconnect with their Judaism through this psychedelic lens.”

But this new(ish) movement is based in an old tradition. “We have encounters with expanded consciousness at the root of the promise of our traditions,” said Kamenetz. And not only that, he adds, but we also “have a profound and sustained relationship with trauma as individuals and as a collective, [which provides] a unique opportunity for healing from generations of displacement, state violence, aggression, and antisemitism.” Therefore, the Jewish community is “uniquely poised for this moment of integration,” he said. “How does a tradition of people, a community that has little, discontinuous, or limited contact or use of these plants and compounds integrate it into their religious or spiritual systems?” asks Kamenetz. “How do they integrate that in an authentic and sacred way?” Indeed these are some of the topics the summit shed light on.

Over Zoom, we gathered dozens of luminaries, rabbis, therapists, mystics, scholars, and those with underground, lived experience to explore the rituals, history, and healing potential of psychedelics within Jewish practice. We built out a YouTube channel, featuring interviews with OGs like Rabbi Art Green, author of the 1968 article, “Notes from the Jewish Underground: Psychedelics and Kabbalah,” and Yoseph Needelman, author of the 2012 memoir Cannabis Chassidis: The Ancient and Emerging Torah of Drugs. Over two days and across a dozen time zones, we held virtual panels and meetup groups, covering topics like Jewish trauma and psychedelic healing, Jewish shamanism, psychedelics in ancient Jewish practice, Jewish mysticism as a container for the psychedelic experience, why ending the war on drugs is a Jewish imperative, and what draws so many Jews to India.

During the Birkat Shalom opening panel, I laid out my inspiration for covering this beat: I was brought up in a community or satsang of “Hinjews”: Jews who had grown up with a dry, assimilated version of post-Holocaust American Judaism, devoid, as many of them say, of anything that felt remotely spiritual. That lack of exposure to embodied, Kabbalistic, or Hasidic concepts was coupled, for some, with antisemitism: As a kid growing up in a gentile neighborhood during the 1940s, my now 79-year-old father was ashamed to be Jewish, wondering what’s wrong with the Jews that they want to kill us? This combination of spiritual deficit and internalized oppression led many to seek out a sense of mysticism or a direct connection to G-d within Buddhism, Hinduism, Burning Man, Rainbow Gathering, or essentially anything other than Judaism. Needless to say, my childhood was colored by an eclectic cast of characters smoking joints, donning saris and bindis, answering to Hindu names like Shiva and Jewish surnames like Rosen, sitting on pillows in our living room for kirtan, and chanting in Sanskrit, yet another language, like Hebrew, that few of us actually understood.

All the while, as my parents put me through Hebrew school, I wondered if what they sought in Eastern traditions actually existed in our own backyard. And so I found myself feeling at home in communities reaching ecstatic, transcendent, connective heights through a Jewish framework.

I learned that Judaism could function both as an expression of and a container that fosters and gives shape to altered states—with or without the drugs—and that tapping into the energy of Shabbat and the holidays is a practice in expanding consciousness. Moreover, through my own psychedelic experiences within Jewish contexts, I found that embodied practices like singing niggunim or lighting Shabbos candles can offer a sense of grounding while soaring to spiritual heights.

As MAPS founder Rick Doblin put it during the Birkat Shalom, Judaism needs a kind of ecstatic revival, and psychedelics can be a big part of it.” He described the disappointment of his own bar mitzvah, sitting in bed the morning after, thinking, “Where is G-d? Where is this revelation? Where is this transformation?” It wasn’t until he tried psychedelics later in his teenage years that he was able to engage “those same energies that my bar mitzvah should have engaged—these existential questions of, ‘Who am I, where do I fit in, what is my purpose, what is my connection beyond me to spirituality?’”

Perhaps Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, father of the Renewal movement, was the first to explain why psychedelics should be more holistically integrated into Judaism. In Boulder, Colorado, during the aughts, at an event called “Jews and Drugs,” Reb Zalman advocated that just as Shabbos and a farbrengen seamlessly integrate alcohol as a focal point of the traditions, so too should it be for psychedelics. Maybe it’s not such a novel idea—in fact, maybe psychedelics at one point in Jewish history were at the center of Jewish ritual.

It’s Yom Kippur circa 950 BCE and the high priest of Jerusalem is in a chamber of the Temple that’s filled with smoke. He’s been fasting for 24 hours and hasn’t seen his family for days. Airtight doors hotbox the chamber, inside of which hot coals made from acacia wood—a native Middle Eastern plant rich in the psychedelic compound DMT—glimmer red beneath a crystalline cocktail of incense composed of frankincense and myrrh.

“He’s in a state to atone for the sin of Adam in this room,” Rabbi Harry Rozenberg, an educator on this topic and co-founder of the Theological Research Institute, explained during a panel on psychedelics in ancient Jewish practice. The priest couldn’t leave the chamber until it was completely veiled in smoke—but why, Rozenberg asked, was this deemed necessary for atonement?

He went on to explain that the priest’s daughter was called Bat Pineal, indicating that the priest himself went by Pineal (yes, like the pineal gland). Called the “seat of the soul” or the “third eye,” the pineal gland is a part of the brain that secretes endogenous DMT. So why was the priest called Pineal? “Because the Talmud says he goes and serves in the innermost chamber,” Rozenberg said.

Indeed, there’s the innermost chamber of the Temple, and then there’s the innermost chamber of ourselves—the metaphysical home of our own internal divinity, which psychedelics can help us access. According to the mystics, Gan Eden can refer both to a physical location, but also a higher spiritual realm offering light, joy, and pleasure. “Commentators say this was or haganuz [concealed light], light of the brain, that was stored away for future generations, but Adam had a taste of it,” Rozenberg said. “But what happened was when Adam sinned, the light left his brain and was sucked into the earth, the klippa, and into the mundane matters—the plants.” Thus, it’s the spiritual work of the people to extract those sparks and bring them back into the brain, Rozenberg continued.

The first sparks, he explained, were thought to have gone into Egypt, and so it was the job of the Hebrews to form a nation and extract those sparks, which mostly came in the form of the acacia plant, central in Egyptian theology and relating to the gods Taurus and Osiris. The tribe that Moses led out of slavery brought with them acacia extraction technology that Moses learned from the Egyptians, Rozenberg said, as well as plants that Jacob made them plant when they arrived in Egypt. He adds that Rashi says they would stare at the trees while in slavery to gain hope for future redemption.

“The whole process culminates with a man standing in a room filled with plant extract smoke to go into the sparks, take it back up, elevate it, and bring it into his brain,” Rozenberg said during the panel. “What I want to suggest in the overlap between the psychedelic state and the mystical experience is we know when you’re on these plant medicines, you’re activating the neurological network where trauma is stored ... so when we’re using the words ‘rectifying the sin of Adam,’ we can start to see the science and replace it with erasing generational trauma that we are storing in us.” The sin of Adam was the first instance of trauma, passed down through generations, followed by the destruction of the Temple, the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, and so on. Now, contemporary researchers are looking at psychedelics as a means of treating trauma—and that includes generational, ethnic-based Jewish trauma.

In addition to acacia, archaeological evidence and research also point to the ancient use of other entheogens (substances that occasion a spiritual experience), including cannabis (kaneh-bosm in Hebrew, which was used in holy anointing oil and found in an ancient Judahite shrine), poppies, ephedra, autumn mandrake, wormwood, and Syrian rue—aka Peganum harmala—which is best used in combination with other plants like acacia. (A monoamine oxidase inhibitor like harmala is needed in order to activate the DMT in acacia, similar to how the combination of plants in ayahuasca also activate the DMT.)

Given the lore and the logic, it’s not farfetched to say that DMT embodies the quintessence of the Jewish psychedelic experience. As the primary psychoactive compound in ayahuasca, DMT has been central to healing and spiritual connection for those coming from all corners of the Jewish world—from Hasidim singing niggunim in ayahuasca prayer circles to secular Israelis and Palestinians sitting in ceremonies together. (Yes, this is currently the focal point of a MAPS study looking at the role of psychedelics in conflict resolution.)

“DMT provides the analog to begin to understand the whole spectrum of the ruach hakodesh, the divine transmission,” explains Rabbi Joel Bakst, author of The Jerusalem Stone of Consciousness: DMT, Kabbalah, and the Pineal Gland (2013). “In Kabbalah-based Torah, we have our own indigenous template dealing with prophecy, and what my personal and Torah research has shown me as part of our ancient tradition is that, prior to the coming of the Messianic era, one will interpret the phenomenon of ruach hakodesh as one of many modes and levels of prophecy.” In other words, according to the research of both Rabbi Bakst and scientist Rick Strassman, author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule (2000) and DMT and the Soul of Prophecy (2014), human beings are uniquely designed to communicate with G-d, and we do so through our endogenous DMT (which may be released during orgasm and during death). According to Strassman’s research in FDA-approved DMT clinical trials, as well as his investigation into the Hebrew Bible, the experience of taking DMT externally mimics the brain state of prophecy.

DMT, among other psychedelics like LSD or magic mushrooms, has the potential to occasion what scientists in the psychedelic research community, at institutions like Harvard or Johns Hopkins, call the “mystical experience,” defined by several criteria, including a sense of oneness or unity, ineffability (an inability to describe the experience with words), transcendence of time and space, a sense of sacredness, a noetic quality (a sense of ultimate reality), and a deeply felt positive mood. In clinical trials at Johns Hopkins and New York University, that look at psychedelics like psilocybin for the treatment of depression, addiction, eating disorders, or end-of-life anxiety among terminally ill patients, the healing that patients experience from psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy seem to correlate with the magnitude to which a patient has a mystical experience under the influence of the psychedelic.

The mystical experience may also sometimes correlate with the experience of “ego death“—a shift in the psyche from a self-centered point of view to one that is completely unbiased, dissolving the boundaries of distinction between oneself and the world around them. On a neurological level, ego death can act as a “reset” of the brain’s default mode network, enabling a person to form new habits or break out of old patterns (hence why psychedelics can be so useful in treating addiction, for instance).

But this nullification of the ego or sense of self can be understood in Jewish terms, as well. Take, for instance, the meditative practice of hitbodedut—a solitary prayer, contemplation, or one-on-one conversation with G-d. As Rebbe Nachman explains in Likutei Moharan (quoted in a paper by UC Berkeley Jewish studies professor Tomer Persico), “to be included in the unity of G-d ... cannot be accomplished by any means other than annulment (bitul). That he nullifies himself completely. Until he is included in the unity of G-d blessed be He. And there is no way to accomplish annulment, but through hitbodedut. Because by going into hitbodedut and laying out a talk between him and his Maker, through that he achieves annulment of all the lusts and bad traits, till he achieves nullification of all his corporality (gashmiyoto), and to be included in his Root.”

In other words, the mystical experience (as defined by psychedelic scientists) and that of ego death collide with the experience of oneness—ultimate and absolute unity, feeling at one with G-d, and the oneness of ourselves as part of that larger spiritual matter, connected to all the world and beings around us. Adonai echad, G-d is one, and all is one—or as Dr. Bronner’s soap bottles proclaim, All One! Indeed, Bronner himself was a Jewish German refugee of the Holocaust; his grandson David Bronner is now one of the most prolific leaders in the psychedelic space, donating to causes like MAPS research and psychedelic decriminalization initiatives around the country.

In a dingy Brooklyn basement every so often, a motley crew of Jews from all over the New York area, from Borough Park to Monsey, gather late at night into the wee hours of dawn to sing niggunim together. At times, the floor might be sticky with wine or beer, but it’s too dark to see the mess. Candlelight ever so slightly illuminates the scene, with enough fold-up chairs to fit at least three dozen people, mingling, playing instruments, pouring drinks, singing, and farbrengen. People shuffle up and down a staircase to the ground level if they need to step outside for a smoke break, passing spliffs in the crisp midnight air. But I don’t think it’s necessarily the weed or the alcohol that’s getting people high here, so much as the transcendent experience of singing together in a group. In other words, the community itself, with its songs and familial atmosphere, is the medicine. The people here come from various types of Jewish backgrounds, some girls wear pants and some guys don payos, and a majority I’m sure have had their own psychedelic experiences as they navigate the derech (path) most aligned with their own personal truth.

Moments like these have shown me what ecstatic Judaism is, what it feels like on an embodied level—and I can’t help but believe that this is what hasidut is actually about, fostering a closeness to G-d and a set and setting through which to experience non ordinary states of consciousness. Jewish mysticism itself offers a framework through which to integrate and make sense of the psychedelic experience. Kabbalah, meditative techniques, embodied practices, singing, and hasidut can even engender psychedelic states without the need for any substances.

Getting high off G-d is an art that’s been lost over the years—perhaps especially among Ashkenazim, who, in order to “gain citizenship and civil rights in modern European states and make Judaism something that was compatible with bourgeois European society, had to sever Judaism from mysticism and extricate Kabbalah,” explains Sam Shonkoff, a Jewish studies professor at the Graduate Theological Union and a team member of UC Berkeley’s Center for the Science of Psychedelics. “We could almost say that Ashkenazi Jews, after generations of despiritualizing, of removing mysticism from their own tradition, were in need of a spiritual jumpstart and psychedelics offered that.” Mizrahim and Sephardim, on the other hand, never faced the same effects of the secular, European enlightenment in North Africa and the Middle East, where mysticism was not so suppressed.

That’s why hasidut was originally so revolutionary, borrowing from Mizrahi and Sephardi traditions in its embrace of Kabbalah and the mystical—a stark shift from the bookish, academic Litvish form of Judaism popular in Europe at the time. “For these early Hasidic sages, ritual and text study alone without a sense of spiritual connection or transformation was just not enough, and so their big keyword was dveykus—cleaving, immediate connection to the divine, not in an austere way, but with joy or simcha, whether that was summersaults, clapping, singing, dancing, or alcohol,” said Shonkoff. The Baal Shem Tov, himself, the father of the Hasidic movement, was said to be a medicine man, an herbalist, and shaman of sorts, who would go around with his enchanted pipe, providing healing to people.

Let us not forget that the word for mushrooms (petriot in Hebrew) is referenced several times throughout the Talmud, as rabbinical student Paige Lincenberg pointed out in her presentation during a panel on Jewish shamanism. In 40B of the Talmud, she explained, the rabbis discuss which blessing to use for petriot, distinguishing it from other vegetables, for which the prayer would simply be that which we use for food that comes from the earth.

“The root of petriot ... means to free, to break through, to open, which is incredibly profound that the word chosen for mushrooms is embodying this idea that so many of us have experienced of what mushrooms do,” said Lincenberg. “They break you open, they break through, they free something, they free the truth within.”

Today, what’s lured many people back to Hasidic thought and experience is the psychedelic experience. “If we had to pinpoint some first eruption of this intersection between neo-hasidut and psychedelics, Reb Zalman would be the guy,” said Shonkoff. “What drew him to hasidut was the same thing that drew him to LSD. He had a thirst for spiritual connection that in some ways goes against the grain of mainstream society.”

In the American Jewish counterculture, a quest for authenticity and spiritual connection led some, like Ram Dass, to India and others back to their roots in the shtetl. Those who rebelled against assimilation, Shonkoff explains, became in turn fascinated with hasidut as a cultural vestige nearly decimated by the Holocaust.

“Camp Ramah was totally part of this story,” Shonkoff adds. Rabbi Art Green did LSD for the first time at Camp Ramah, while Reb Zalman, too, was an educator at Camp Ramah when he first tripped with Timothy Leary at a nearby ashram. “[Psychedelics] confirmed a lot of the things that I had already seen in the Hasidic sources,” said Green. “A lot of the mystical language took on a new life, took on an immediate reality through psychedelic experience. It was almost a translation of the theoretical language in Hasidism to direct experiential front of what happened on an acid trip.”

Today, what’s lured many people back to Hasidic thought is the psychedelic experience.

Psychedelics are a shortcut to connection; they’ll show you a path to a different sense of self or reality, but they aren’t a path in and of themselves. But since they can help you connect to yourself, your family, your community, nature, and the cosmos, they can engender a paradigm of consciousness that is both reparative and healthy, explains psychiatrist Julie Holland in her latest book, Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection from Soul to Psychedelics. This feeling of connection can help us get into the parasympathetic mode of the nervous system—a state of rest, relaxation, and repair—as opposed to the sympathetic mode—a state of fight or flight. Trauma can be both lived, and passed down. Research into epigenetics suggests that the traumatic experiences of our ancestors may impact the way our genes function. Needless to say, the parasympathetic mode isn’t always the default state for many of us in Jewish bodies, strapped with anxieties, ulcers, hypervigilance, and adaptive behaviors that once helped us survive persecution, but now interfere with our overall well-being.

“When we talk about Jewish trauma, we’re talking about really challenging and difficult experiences that are there simply because of Judaism or being Jewish,” said Dr. Rachel Yehuda, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience and the director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, during a panel on Jewish trauma. There are different types of Jewish trauma, Dr. Keren Tzarfaty, co-founder of the Hakomi Institute of Israel and a therapy trainer for MAPS, added during the panel discussion. One is the fear of harm, not only to the physical body, but also to the emotional and energetic body.

But although our Judaism may be the reason behind so much of our trauma, it can also be our savior from it. “That’s why in Judaism we are focused on remembering the past,” said Yehuda. “We’re not remembering the past around the Seder or any of those kinds of events in order to traumatize ourselves. We’re doing it to reflect on our resilience, on the fact that we have tools of survival.”

It’s through reliving these memories, however, that psychedelic healing can be most useful: “The whole idea with MDMA-assisted therapy for trauma or psilocybin or ayahuasca or any of these things is to maybe just try to change the emotion around the memory a little bit,” Holland said during the panel. “It’s not like you’re going to come out of that saying this didn’t happen or this didn’t happen to me. Yes, it happened. But you’re going to have a little bit more space around it. You can integrate a little bit better.”

The wisdom or the power of psychedelic therapy, Tzarfaty added, comes from enabling patients to relive trauma in a safe and specified setting, in order to process emotions that got stuck, and to let go of the armor that they’ve built up in response.

When I think of Jewish trauma and psychedelic Judaism, I think of those closest to me. I think back to that Purim in Jerusalem, the hot spot of so much pain that implodes into a majesty of ecstatic devotion, prayer, and the psychedelic experience of simply being in the land. As educator and mystic Hadar Cohen said during the panel on Jewish mysticism, Jerusalem is a state of mind. And perhaps, it’s one that each of us has access to—what is our inner Jerusalem, our points of trauma and pain, and within a different realm, what are our points of transcendence and connection?

I remember the state of utter calm and contentment I felt as the festivities died down and Purim faded away into the nurturing blanket of the shekhina that is Shabbat. My partner at the time, Aaron Genuth, who founded a religious entheogenic nonprofit called Darkhei Rephua (“Paths of Healing”), led me through the back alleys of Nachlaot. It began to drizzle. Everything had a glimmer to it, a subtle sparkle. Maybe the acid hadn’t totally worn off.

I remember reading an old Vice magazine story called “The Magic Jews,” which surveyed the scene that I got to know better through Aaron. What does it mean to be a magic Jew? I wondered when I first read that article. Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox—perhaps Magic is the “denomination” that will guide us into a new Jewish paradigm, rooted in healing and authentic, accessible spiritual connection.

There’s the concept of “haimishness” that runs as an undercurrent through the realm of the Magic Jews, straddling the most haimish corners of the world, between Boro Park, Brooklyn, and the Catskills. Haimish means homey, but it also represents a communal way of life and looking out for one another—perhaps a holdover from the Holocaust mentality. It’s haimish to invite a stranger in for Shabbat dinner; it’s haimish to take the bus from Williamsburg to Monsey, where a mechitza separates men and women and the bus driver himself speaks Yiddish; it’s haimish to eat cholent—a mix and metaphor of everything in one. And the psychedelic experience itself has elements of haimishness to it, in that it may connect your soul back to its home in the body, and sheds light on that sense of cosmic oneness and connection to community—especially if you’re tripping in a Jewish setting or on a holiday.

It’s this psychedelic notion of oneness—the one that’s so central to the mystical experience, to the psychedelic, and to Jewish theology—that connects us back into an integrated singular whole, comprised of ourselves, our community, and ultimately G-d. How could so many disparate things in the world actually be one? Maybe through the mundane practices that remind us who we are—the insights, the ritual, the community, the embodiment of prayer from shuckling or wrapping tefillin, to washing our hands in the morning or saying Shema every night—is what encompasses the kaleidoscope of the Jewish and psychedelic experience, where the denomination of Magic comes in.

Madison Margolin is a journalist living in New York. She specializes in writing about Jewish culture and drug policy.

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