Jewish Journal

Addicted to redemption

by Rabbi Mark Borovitz, Head Rabbi at Beit T’Shuvah

September 7, 2012 | 2:03 pm

To introduce this blog, it’s important you meet and learn a bit about me.  I am Rabbi Mark Borovitz, and to my knowledge, I am the only ex-con, ordained Rabbi that addresses an audience comprised equally of convicts and congregants at the weekly Shabbat Services I lead. 

I am also the Head Rabbi, Spiritual Leader and COO of the Los Angeles- based residential addiction treatment center Beit T’Shuvah. I spend my days counseling, leading Torah studies, providing spiritual guidance to executives, and making sure the 156 treatment center residents of Beit T’Shuvah don’t get out of line.  I also co-authored my autobiography, The Holy Thief, for which the rights were recently optioned. 

I used to be a criminal, a crook, a mobster and a lost soul  – 23 years ago that changed.  I have made mistakes and I have made T’Shuvah.  It’s my mission in life to help others do the same and to use the hustle in me – for good.  To this day, there is not a single soul I have crossed paths with that was too far-gone to change.  I believe in redemption; everyone can make good on their past.  Believe me…  I am a spiritual gangster.

In addition to my own testimony, I offer you this excerpt from my autobiography, The Holy Thief.   Written by Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Head Rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom.

“Someone told me about this guy who had just gotten out of prison and was working in a rehab center that his wife had set up.  He was supposedly a rebel character. He had a message, though, a strong message.  He was speaking about addictions and criminal behavior, and he had a lot to say about how to avoid making bad choices.  Charismatic. That’s the word people used.

He spoke this language that I’d never really heard.  Addiction is a hole in your soul. He was raw and crude and deeply passionate.  He was a kid who went to synagogue, a kid who came from a good family, a kid who made bad choices and went very wrong. He was very compelling. And he got to me.

I discovered his brilliance when it came to interpreting the text. He came to Torah from a whole different place, a perspective I had not seen. Mark had incredible insight. It was all from his life. From the school of hard knocks.  It wasn’t the way I was trained. My training comes from books. Mark’s training came from the street. He didn’t know how to read the book.  He needed me to help him read the book. I needed him to show me this new, dynamic way to interpret it. We started learning together. Every week. It was a kind of symbiosis and a revelation to us both. We’re still going.

When I talk to people about Mark Borovitz and I say he is the Holy Thief who steals back souls from the devil and steals souls back from the dead… I’m one of them. I’m one of them.”

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