Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis was born in the Bronx, New York in 1925 to secular parents who respected Zionism and Jewish traditions. His early Jewish education was influenced by his grandfather, Rabbi Avraham Rezak, who introduced him to the Talmud. In 1945, Schulweis graduated Yeshiva University with a degree in philosophy. Later Schulweis enrolled in the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he studied under Mordecai M.Kaplan and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Schulweis also studied modern philosophical and theological thought at New York University, where he met his wife Malkah.
Schulweis’s first pulpit was Temple Beth Abraham, a Conservative Jewish congregation in Oakland, California in 1952. Among the innovations he introduced was the inclusion of women in minyanim and bat mitzvah ceremonies for girls. Instead of sermons, he used the allotted time for questions and answers and innovated a change from a one-way sermon to an interactive learning experience through the participation of the entire congregation in Torah discussions. He successfully expanded this program when he joined Temple Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California, in 1970.