Participants in a program at Urban Adamah, where Shefa's cannabis retreat will be held. (Photo/Courtesy Urban Adamah)
Participants in a program at Urban Adamah, where Shefa's cannabis retreat will be held. (Photo/Courtesy Urban Adamah)

Zac Kamenetz, the psychedelic rebbe of Berkeley, seeks applicants for Jewish cannabis retreat

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A few years ago, Rabbi Zac Kamenetz of Berkeley was a novice to psychedelic substances. But after a life-changing experience as a subject in a clinical trial on psychedelic experiences in clergy, he’s now a leading voice in a growing movement to normalize the use of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin (aka magic mushrooms) in the practice of Jewish spirituality.

Rabbi Zac Kamenetz
Rabbi Zac Kamenetz

In 2019, he told J., “Someday, I see a space, maybe in the East Bay, where people can have safe and supported psychedelic experiences individually, and then integrate those experiences in a community that is invested in the application of mystical experiences with other people. This is total science fiction because it doesn’t exist.”

It does now. Or at least, it will for a few days later this month. Kamenetz is seeking applicants to participate in a trial run of what such a space would look like — the first Jewish psychedelic cannabis Shabbaton, to take place July 22-24 at Urban Adamah, the Jewish farm in Berkeley.

The Shabbaton is a program of Shefa, the organization Kamenetz founded in the early days of the pandemic to advocate for the use of psychedelics to heal personal and intergenerational trauma in the Jewish people.

Cannabis isn’t usually thought of in the same category of psychedelics as LSD or psilocybin, but it does have the benefit of being legal in California.

FROM 2019: Can psychedelics heal the Jewish people? This rabbi is exploring that question.

“There are questions of what is a psychedelic,” Kamenetz told J. “In this instance it’s a shorthand for not only the substance but the setting.”

In psychedelic parlance, “the setting” refers to the physical and social environment in which an experience takes place.

The event will begin Friday night with Shabbat candle lighting and “a breath work ceremony to ease people in,” Kamenetz said. “Working with breath can be psychedelic itself, mood and mind altering.”

The participants — up to 25 of them — will then spend the rest of Shabbat together on Saturday. After Shabbat ends on Saturday evening, they will begin a cannabis ceremony that will last five to six hours. It’s BYO weed, but Kamenetz and his collaborators — who include experienced facilitators from the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness — are offering suggestions of strains available from your local dispensary.

“We’re being thoughtful about this. It’s not like just smoking a joint on your couch and watching TV,” Kamenetz said. “And afterward, on Sunday, people will start talking in groups about what they encountered and experienced. We’re hoping that the Jewishness of the setting and the programming will have some impact or shift on people’s desire to make their psychedelic experience or life more Jewishly rich.”

“Jewish Psychedelic Retreat”

July 22-24. At Urban Adamah, 1151 Sixth St., Berkeley. $420-$800 sliding scale, including accommodations and all meals. Apply by filling out the safety questionnaire.

David A.M. Wilensky
(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
J. The Jewish News of Northern California Staff Headshots.
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is director of news product at J. He previously served as assistant editor and digital editor. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @davidamwilensky