Jewish Journal


September 14, 2012

“Queen of the Misfits”… Ms. Harriet Rossetto



"Beit T’Shuvah, “The House of Return”, is exactly that.  It is a community of lost souls looking to find themselves.  As a former resident, I am one of the thousands of individuals that found myself after many painful years of searching.  A community built on the allowance for second chances and redemption is a testament to faith in others.  Harriet has never turned one person away who is seeking help regardless of his or her ability to pay.  To put it simply, against all odds she chose to believe in us, society’s throwaways, and was right."

- Former Resident of Beit T’Shuvah

… 25 years later, Harriet addresses an audience comprised of 1000 people at the annual Beit T’Shuvah Gala.
January 29th, 2012

“I’m Harriet Rossetto, founder, CEO and Rebbitzin of Beit T’Shuvah.

I am the serious note in this evening’s frivolities.  I want to put into context what you will experience this evening, L’Dor V’Dor – from generation to generation.  What you will see here tonight is Beit T’Shuvah’s response to Jewish continuity.
L’Dor V’Dor – the transmission of wisdom from generation to generation is the essence of the Jewish tradition.  It is the hope that we do not have to repeat the mistakes of the past – which each succeeding generation will progress in honoring the G-d of One-ness and living the commandments.  The Torah is the Big Book of Jewish recovery – the manual for living a whole (holy) life.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a malfunction in the transmission system.  We are passing down the wrong message to our children and they have closed their ears to us.  They do not want to live as “golden children,” the bearers of their parents’ unfulfilled dreams and expectations.  They want to be visible as themselves – imperfect, flawed – and they are frightened that they will disappoint you if they reveal themselves.  Instead, they starve, stuff, pierce, mutilate and anesthetize themselves so we have to pay attention.  They are even willing to die to get off the pedestal.

We have passed down the forms and forgotten the wisdom.  We have paid less attention to spiritual progress than material progress.  We have led our kids to believe that they must be the best at everything – the smartest, thinnest, and richest – in order to feel fulfilled.  And of course, it hasn’t worked.  The more we get, the more we want, always chasing, never satisfied.  The Torah teaches us to eat, be satisfied and bless.  Be grateful for what you have, love your neighbor and yourself.  Be of service, accept your imperfections, make T’Shuvah every day, be true to whom you are.  In other words, be a mensch.

Beit T’Shuvah is passing down menschlikeit from generation to generation.  This is our 25th year and we have begotten several generations of mensches – we are passing down what they have learned to those who come after them as sponsors, mentors and employers – they are also creating families, passing down their spiritual wisdom to their children.

A young man I mentor said to me the other day – “you know, I really feel I went to Love School at Beit T’Shuvah.”  He didn’t mean he found a girlfriend (although that happens too – Beit T’Shuvah has more marriages than J-Date), he meant he learned to value and respect himself, his family and friends, to pursue his passion, to be responsible for his actions and emotions, to do the right thing whether he felt like it or not.  He had found his T’Selem Elohim – the imprint of G-d within him.  So had I.

- Ms. Harriet Rossetto

My latest book, Sacred Housekeeping: A Spiritual Memoir, will be released later this year.

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