When you think of a someone who sells weed, you probably don’t picture an Orthodox Jew. But mom and pop team Shifra & Alex Klein of Mitzva Herbal Collective, located in West Hollywood, California, are not your typical Orthodox Jews. We sat down the other day to discuss this exciting brand new niche of the cannabis industry. Alex described it as filling a void that they’ve seen in the community. There are so many Orthodox Jews who are ill and could use cannabis to relieve their symptoms but either can’t or won’t go to a dispensary for fear of being seen and the stigma attached to it; and even if they could, cannot eat most edibles since they are not kosher.
Kosher food has to be prepared in a certain way and with certain ingredients. When it comes to medicinal needs, a rabbi will usually allow it, but why have to eat something not kosher if you don’t have to! They explained that they wanted to include observant Jewish people, but not necessarily cater only to them. Also, they pointed out that a lot of non Jews also prefer kosher products because their ingredients are cleaner and more pure than non kosher products. “We knew this Rabbi in our community who was sick with cancer. He had been undergoing chemo and had gotten down to 90 pounds. They could no longer continue his treatment because he was too weak,” Shifra explains. “We got him some product and he got his appetite back, he was less nauseous, and was able to keep his food down again. He’s now back up to 140 pounds and is able to start chemo again. His daughter called us and said, ‘I don’t know if you understand how the morale of the house has changed, seeing your parent live again.
We’re all more positive now and he’s back on his meds. We thought it was the end and now we have hope. You brought us all back to life again.’ So we’re not just helping the patient, we’re helping their families as well. That makes it worth the time and effort to do everything that we do. It’s a huge mitzvah (good deed). Hence our name! We’re not just promoting what we make, but also what we’re about. Doing mitzvahs and encouraging others to do mitzvahs.”
I asked them if they were worried about having their names and faces associated with cannabis, especially while living in a conservative community. “You know what? I don’t care,” laughs Shifra. “We want to help the community,” added Alex. “If our faces get out there because of it, so be it.” Shifra explained to me that they have four children in the Jewish Orthodox school systems and that she’s also a special education teacher. “We are very open with our kids. They know exactly what we’re doing. We explained to them that this is a plant that God gave us. A healing plant and we’re using it as a source, a vessel, to help heal people. We’re so open with them that they know what THC, CBD, sativa and indica are. In the house we always hear, ‘Mom!! Can we eat this?’”, Shifra laughs. “They’re like straight up trained. I told my ten-year-old, you know you don’t have to talk about this at school, what mommy and daddy do. And she goes, ‘But why mommy? I’m so proud of you.’ It’s about educating our children and our community.”
Alex laughs too. “You know what? We want people to find us. We want people to know that we’re the place you can go to get the real, legit, OU certified kosher products. We want to be known for that. And they’re also parve (made without meat or milk products). Which means you can eat it with anything. Like if you need your medicine, we’re not gonna blindside you and say yeah it’s kosher, but it’s also dairy so you have to wait three hours to eat it.” Another part of keeping kosher is not eating milk and meat products together, so the parve ingredients ensure that members can medicate at any time of day and with any kind of meal.
Also, since Jews cannot light fire on the Sabbath, these edibles enable members to medicate without breaking any religious restrictions during that time of the week. So there’s a real need that is being filled with the availability of kosher edibles. Shifra adds, “We are the first ones on the entire west coast to have OU (Orthodox Union) certification. It’s a pretty big deal. OU is one of the largest and most well known kosher certifications. We had to redo our kitchen, buy new appliances, and list every single ingredient to submit to them, down to the flour. We meet all the standards now. We’re not open on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays and everything is prepared in our completely kosher commercial kitchen. It was a lot of work, but if that’s what it’s gonna take for someone to pick it up or not because of its kosher status, then it’s worth it for us. A lot of what we do is make people feel comfortable, because it can be an uncomfortable situation to be in.
We provide that comfort through our edibles and through emotional support and education.” They also make their own infused coconut oil from scratch that smells absolutely delicious! I got a chance to taste all of their products and I’m happy to say that there is zero plant taste. They are really just as good as Bubbe used to make! And all of their edibles have either CBD only or a CBD/THC mix. In the interest of moderation, they follow the Colorado state recommendation of 10mg of cannabis per dose, so none of their products contain over that amount. Also, all of their products are lab tested for quality and proper dosing. They are always happy to share their lab results with members to offer full transparency and so patients feel comfortable knowing what they’re ingesting. Shifra calls herself the “Queen of Microdosing”.
She explains, “You don’t see a lot of edibles in microdoses. So let’s say you’re a new user, or a child, you don’t want to over do it. And you don’t want to have to break off little pieces of things. No child wants a crumb of something. They want a whole cookie. And there’s less chance of overdoing it.” They can provide custom made products, as well. So let’s say you have a child who can only eat peanut butter because it’s the only thing that won’t make them nauseous; they will make something specifically for their needs.
They can also make trips to other dispensaries if they cannot provide their member with what they are looking for, and deliver to them. All of their services are donation based. For members who are bedridden or would prefer to not walk into a doctor’s office, they can get a medical recommendation on their website through their partnership with Hello MD in under twenty minutes. With Passover coming up we discussed how they also plan to make holiday-themed products year round, including infused kosher peppermint bark for Christmas. Since most Jewish holidays can be summed up with, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat,” one could arguably say that edibles could only enhance those celebrations.
If you’re ready for some “High” Holidays, you can sign up for the collective on their site MitzvaHerbal.com and follow them on Instagram and Facebook as well. Their entire focus is on support, education, and giving back to their community. It was such a pleasure to meet such wonderful people who are clearly in this for the right reasons. Shifra says, “For us it’s about doing mitzvahs. We are the pioneers in our community. And it’s progressive for the Jewish people. So we’re hip now, yeah?” She laughs. “I don’t know if my teenagers would agree.”