Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Jews look back through haze to summer of hope

Since shortly after the counter-cultural days of the Summer of Love, Jews have been at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement. What's more, the spirit of the '60s had a lot in common with Jewish values, according to a piece in this week's j., the SF Jewish weekly.

It was a dream that took shape in Haight-Ashbury, where everyone wore flowers in their hair. It was a dream that burst into psychedelic glory in Golden Gate Park, where thousands gathered in the summer of 1967.

With the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, Jewish veterans of the long strange trip can’t help but look back. Though the pan-spirituality of the times allowed no room for traditional religion, Jews who were there agree Jewish values informed much of the hippie worldview.

Chabad of S.F. Rabbi Yosef Langer, at the time a San Jose State University student, today sees beyond the peace signs and roach clips. He perceives something more significant coming out of the Summer of Love.

“The yearning for utopia, in spiritual terminology the promise of the Prophets, is what this generation was all about: Everyone is looking for the time when we will live in peace and harmony. That’s what happened with the busting out of the hippie and political revolution.”

It was indeed a revolution.

Consider the confluence of social upheavals: The civil rights movement, anti-war activism and the popularity of mind-altering drugs. All of that swirled around baby boomers with the revelatory power of a burning bush.

And for young seekers, the Promised Land was the city by the bay.

“The counterculture project as it emerged from 1965 to 1967 was not ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out,’” Michael Rossman told the j. “It was to make a more authentic life between people generally. A large part of it was Jewish — Red-diaper babies who wanted to repair the world.”

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