By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Redemption takes a community. This realization came to me this week in a very tragic, powerful way. One of our staff members, Ira Skolky, z"l, died from a massive stroke. It is a great loss to the Beit T’Shuvah community and to the greater Jewish and Recovery communities as well. Dealing with this ordeal has strengthened my resolve to spread the word of Redemption and to try hard to get more of us to become "Addicted to Redemption!”
Ira was a Counselor, having gone through the Beit T’Shuvah program for Living Well. He was also a member of the cast of our original play, Freedom Song. On Saturday, the cast was leaving for 2 shows in South Florida. Ira was late and this was cause for alarm, as Ira was always the first person everywhere he was supposed to be. Yeshaia Blakeney and Laura Bagish went to his house and through a series of God Shots, found him lying on the floor of his room and called 911 and then me. We found his relatives, told them what was happening; the paramedics did their best to help and he went to Cedars-Sinai Hospital. The Medical team there did their best and, sadly, there was no brain activity. Ira passed away on Sunday, February 10, 2013. The fact that he was a recovering alcoholic never mattered to anyone helping him. He was seen as a human being in need of help and everyone responded accordingly. His friends and family prayed for him and were at the hospital to be with him. The entire Beit T’Shuvah community rallied to his side and prayed, hoped and showed our deep love and need for Ira. The cast went to Florida and dedicated the performances to and spoke about Ira. I have been told that they were some of the most powerful performances ever!
Ira's Redemption has had profound effects on people for these past 5 years. He has helped, loved, scolded and guided many of us to reach places we never knew were attainable. Ira's life is a testament to Redemption and that it is never too late and/or no one is "too far gone" to do T’Shuvah and Redeem themselves. Ira's Redemption happened because of his work, the work of others who helped him and the work of those he helped.
In arranging his burial, the family has no money, there is only a sister left. I had to call the Burial Fund people of Jewish Family Service and I spoke to Len Lawrence of Mount Sinai Mortuary and Cemetery. While I understand the need for checking things out, I was getting frustrated when they asked for paperwork that was not readily available and I spoke to Len. I asked him how he would feel if I made someone go through all this when he referred someone to Beit T’Shuvah and told me there was no money for the services. Leon's response was, "Mark, you will have the go ahead in 10 minutes.” And I did!
A Shomer watched the body and Bruce Bloom performed Taharah free of charge. All of the Clergy of Beit T’Shuvah are leading the services, free of charge. On Sunday we are having a Celebration of Ira's Life at 5PM with food and refreshments, free of charge to everyone.
I am proud of JFS Burial Fund, Mount Sinai Mortuary and Cemetery, Len Lawrence, Yeshaia Blakeney, Laura Bagish, Ira's sister and cousins, the Medical Team at Cedars-Sinai and the entire Beit T’Shuvah community for helping Ira redeem himself in life and in Death. Witnessing this coming together of community is one of the reasons I am "Addicted to Redemption!”