Aryae Coopersmith is founder of One World Lights (OWL)
, a community of global citizens with the shared vision of people everywhere supporting a course change for humanity by supporting each other. The vehicle is wisdom circles – mostly by video-conferencing – where global citizens from around the world gather to share wisdom, inspiration, knowledge, support, resources. Members live in 10 countries and serve in their own causes and communities as peacemakers, community organizers, social activists, business consultants, artists, clergy, and champions for those who need support: people, animals, nature, the earth. The vision is an abundant, healthy, just, peaceful, sustainable world – one world for all of us. Aryae also serves as a volunteer at ServiceSpace
, a global community with the vision of “change yourself, change the world” through countless small acts of kindness.
Aryae is author of Holy Beggars: A Journey from Haight Street to Jerusalem
, a memoir of a student, a spiritual teacher, and the spiritual revolution in 1960s San Francisco that transformed the way millions of Americans experience faith and spirituality. Told in the first person, the book chronicles Aryae’s spiritual and personal journey, beginning with his time as a 22-year-old college student in 1960s San Francisco, where he met the Rabbi and musician Shlomo Carlebach and decided to start a community for him. He rented a house and moved in with his wife and best friends. Before long, they found themselves, and their house – the House of Love and Prayer – at the center of the San Francisco spiritual revolution, as thousands of young people – Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sufis and more – flooded in through their doors, drawn by the atmosphere and Shlomo’s music and teaching. The community, the House of Love and Prayer, opened a new chapter of American Judaism, and became a historic part of the legend of 1960s San Francisco.
In describing the book, Aryae has said: “It’s really about the complexity of our relationships with spiritual teachers and other mentors. How they affect us, how they affect our lives. It’s also about what happened in 1960s San Francisco, the spiritual revolution of those days. It was a different vision we were sharing about who we are as spiritual beings.”
Aryae went on to found a career development firm and worked as a community college instructor in the 1970s, an account executive and sales manager in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, a Principal at the Tom Peters Group in Palo Alto in the 1990s, and founded and led the HR Forums
, an association of Silicon Valley’s human resource executives, from 1997 to 2013.
Aryae has an MA in Humanistic Psychology from California State University, Sonoma. He was ordained in 2011 by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi as a Jewish spiritual teacher. Together with his wife Wendy, he convenes the Coastside Torah Circle, where people from different backgrounds gather to study sacred Jewish texts, and “the circle is the teacher.” They live with their three cats in the little beach town of El Granada, a few miles south of San Francisco.
Five Questions with Aryae Coopersmith
What Makes You Come Alive?
Holding space in a circle with other people where we connect and share so deeply that things which were hidden before, now get revealed. Sitting in silence in a redwood forest, hearing the wisdom that comes through the ancient trees. Being present as people learn from each other and support each other. Hugs of all kinds.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
The "Meeting of the Ways" concert in San Francisco's Masonic Auditorium in February, 1972. Teachers from all over the world, together with their students -- Hindus, Yogis, Sikhs, Muslims, Sufis, Buddhists, Christians, Jews gathering to sing together, dance together, to celebrate the emergence of a world where we know, we really know that, in the words of my teacher Reb Shlomo, "we're all on the same path; we're just wearing different shoes." The experience has never left me. Sadly the world is still very far away from this dream. But the dream doesn't go away, and it never will. It has been a blessing to find people now, around the world, who are ready to get together and keep the dream alive.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
Wendy and I were visiting our teacher Reb Zalman at his home in Boulder, CO. As a spiritual teacher, he often surprised his students with his interest in the mundane aspects of our lives. He was 87 at the time; I was 68. The downstairs part of the house near his office was filled with piles of tech stuff: old computers, cables, disk drives, monitors, printers – you name it, it was there. So we pulled up a couple of chairs near his desk, and talked. Some of the conversation was about his latest tech toys. He especially loved the voice recognition software which made it possible for him to keep writing and publishing several books a year. I had to ask him a few times to repeat himself. Suddenly he stopped talking and looked at me.
“Aryae, do you use hearing aids?” he said.
“Well, you might want to see if you could use some.”
Before I could protest, he was up from his chair, wading into one of those piles of stuff, and emerged a minute later with hearing aids. “A spare pair,” he said sheepishly. I could take them back to the Bay Area with me and see if they made a difference. “And don’t worry about them,” he said. “Just send them back when you’re done.”
It turns out they did make a difference, so I went to an audiologist, got a pair of my own, and sent him back his. Like many people with hearing loss, I had been unaware of the amount stress I was experiencing everyday from the effort to try to understand what people were saying. Being able to hear, easily, clearly,with no stress, made a huge difference in my life. I had thought I was going to visit him to talk about spirit. It turns out that he was tuned in to my well-being in a way I hadn’t expected.
I will always thank Reb Zalman for that.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
I've been hiking in the forest with my kids, and it's been very satisfying. So when my granddaughter's old enough, it would be great to do the same with her.
One-line Message for the World?
In Reb Zalman’s words: “The only way to get it together, is together!”