“T’Shuvuh was put into the world before the world was created, according to our mystics. Because God knew that we would screw up and need a way back. When I first really learned about it in prison from Rabbi Mel Silverman I found it… exhilarating.” “Because”, said Rabbi Mark Borovitz, “now I had a way.”

The truth is that alcoholism and drug addiction effect the Jewish community. And believe it or not you will even find Jews in the penitentiary.

Rabbi Mark Borovitz, 60, was such a Jew. He now runs Beit T’Shuvuh, a non-profit drug and alcohol rehab.

Borovitz, after  his father died, looked to his barber as a mentor. His barber had ties to the local mob and gave the teen stolen goods to sell.

In time, he would work as a thief, gambler, gangster and con man.

He was also an alcoholic.

“I lived a good part of my life, both as a criminal and even in sobriety, always feeling half a step off,” Borovitz says.

“I didn’t have a purpose. And because I felt that I was defective from this place of being half a step off, I didn’t matter, and nothing mattered,” he adds. “Because my net worth and my self-worth were so tied up, when I made money, when I made a score, I was something. When I was broke, I was nothing.”

After many arrests, in 1986, he was picked up again.  But for the first time didn’t seek a bail bondsman, “The man upstairs was trying to tell me something, I had to sit there until I figured it out.”

Borovitz eventually was transferred from county jail to Chino State Prison. He reconnected with religion on the inside. His other brother, Neal, is a Rabbi.

“When he was going to be a rabbi, what could I do except be a crook”?

Rabbi Neal gave his brother the Torah text and a prayer book. Borovitz also studied as an inmate rabbi’s clerk.

Borovitz’s life changed while inside. He met Harriet Rossetto, a social worker with the Jewish Committee for Personal Service, who was visiting the Chino facility as part of the Jewish Jail Ladies outreach program.

Rossetto had a dream to create a place for Jewish ex-cons and addicts to integrate back into society.

Beit T’Shuvuh was opened in 1987.

And then in 1988, upon his release from prison, Borovitz came to work as the centers Rabbi. Two years later Rossetto and Borovitz married.

Beit T’Shuvuh was The most important component of the Beit T’shuvah is a  faith-based residential rehab and spiritual community.  It is through this community of study, meditation, prayer and discussion that the residents transition from behavior patterns of perfectionism, failure, isolation and entitlement to life goals of progress, accountability, and gratitude. Residents look to religious archetypes, shared heritage, and communal wisdom for the strength to alter their behavior.

Beit T’Shuvah has many levels of residential treatment, designed to give each resident a unique continuum of care that provides an individualized program within guidelines. Each resident is closely monitored by members of the LEADERSHIP team as he/she progresses throughout the various programs to ensure a healthy transition into a sober life. Residential treatment varies in length according to individual client needs, but typically involves six months’ residence.

Borovitz’s autobiography, The Holy Thief, co-written with Alan Eisenstock, was released in 2004. Television director/producer Jack Bender (Lost, Alcatraz) has purchased the movie rights.

“I always believed in God,” Borovitz says. “I was never agnostic. I didn’t pay much attention to him, but I’ve always believed in God. What I learned is that God believes in me, too.”

Beit T’Shuvah’s teaches basic twelve step principles combined with Borovits’ spiritual philosophy.

He knows that a Jewish recovery center doesn’t fit the stereotypes of his religion he says, “The myth was ‘shikker iz a goy‘ — or ‘The drunk is a non-Jew.’ Nobody talked about it. It was too shameful.

“I think society, in general … everybody wants to be perfect,” Borovitz adds. “I think probably in L.A., New York, your bigger cities, it’s harder. I mean, look at what we do. We make people heroes, and then we tear them down as soon as they have flaws. In recovery we help people embrace their imperfections, find their passions and discover a purpose.

He now likes to say,  “I do whatever it takes to help people come back to life. I hustle for God”

And with the help of Harriott Rosetto, from con man to Rabbi, Mark Borovitz has found his.

Now, he says, “I hustle for God. I do whatever it takes to help people come back to life.”

Written By: Louie Sabatasso