How the Summer
Rabbi Aubrey Glazer of Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco said “this was their way of bringing the wandering Jews back to Judaism.”
“It really showed us the genius of American Judaism being able to incorporate elements of American culture,” he said. “Shlomo asked what’s going on in secular culture that’s attracting the Jews, and let’s make it our own.”
Ram Dass sometimes spoke at the House of Love and Prayer, where nuns, Buddhists and Hindus also were frequent guests. Coopersmith said the singing and dancing at Friday night services often stretched into the early morning.
“The doors were always open. The challenge with that was we never said no to anyone, so all kinds of people could be wandering in and asking to sleep there. There were huge pots of rice and veggies and soup. On a typical Shabbos when Shlomo wasn’t there, there would be 150 to 200 people,” Coopersmith said. “When Shlomo was there, you put all that on steroids.”
The House of Love and Prayer dissolved by 1977, though an offshoot with the same name still exists in Tsfat, Israel. But its legacy lives on in certain American Jewish circles, with its focus on community building, joyous prayer and havurah groups.
“I think that the whole Jewish Renewal thing came out of it and the services I go to now, Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, they definitely have hippie influence,” Felix said. “That was the dream people had. They kind of organized it into institutions for the next generations.”
Langer said the House of Love and Prayer showed that “people want passion, to be passionate about Judaism. And they want song and something that touches their heart.”
Glazer pointed to Bay Area groups such as The Kitchen as outgrowths of the communal spirit of the House of Love and Prayer.
“At the end of the day, it contributed immensely to the revival of American Judaism,” he said. “We’re still learning and absorbing the lessons that were being taught at the House of Love and Prayer, that’s it’s important to connect people on more than just an intellectual and a liturgical way.
“That’s what the House of Love and Prayer was able to absorb from the larger hippie movement — the need to let go of some of the walls that keep us apart and to actually be real and to be human and wear your soul on your sleeve.”