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March 15, 2011

Running to save souls

http://www.jewishjournal.com/community/article/running_to_save_souls_20110315

Runners in the 26th annual Los Angeles Marathon on March 20 will include residents of Beit T’Shuvah, a residential treatment center for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.

Beit T’Shuvah is the only official Jewish charity participating in the L.A. marathon and hopes to raise $125,000 for their Run to Save a Soul campaign.

With a full-service synagogue and a wide variety of programs, including arts classes, job counseling and fitness workshops, residency at the recovery center can cost $5,000 each month, so the funds raised will help those who can’t afford to pay, according to Nina Haller, major gifts director at Beit T’Shuvah. Between 70 to 80 percent of the current 120 residents at Beit T’Shuvah receive some form of financial assistance. 

As of Monday, March 14, the team had raised nearly $110,000 with the help of corporate sponsors, including Conroy Commercial Real Estate, Westfield LLC and the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Aside from providing an opportunity to raise needed funds, training for the marathon helps stimulate the physical and mental recovery of those suffering from addiction, said Rabbi Mark Borovitz, senior rabbi at Beit T’Shuvah.

They’re running “to and for something, rather than against and away from something,” Borovitz said. “I think [running is] an amazing tool.”

“It really shows the ability of people who thought so negatively of themselves to replace those behaviors with positive activities,” Haller said.

To date, 31 people have joined Beit T’Shuvah’s marathon team, a mix of residents, alumni, staff and supporters.

At a recent practice, Nancy Taubman, 32, a resident at Beit T’Shuvah and recovering drug addict, stopped for a brief rest after running eight miles.

“This is one aspect of my recovery,” Taubman said, between gulps of Gatorade. “This helps my focus; for me it’s [about] getting control of my life.”

Though not a resident at Beit T’Shuvah and not in recovery, Anne Richards, a 54-year-old real estate investor and resident of West L.A., nevertheless decided to run with the Beit T’Shuvah team. A previous marathon runner, Richards wanted to run this year with a Jewish charity that serves people of all backgrounds, not only Jews.

“I know that I am [an outsider] in one way, but I feel like I have been very welcomed by everybody,” she said. “In some ways, I feel like I’m just another person who is sharing this project.”

The L.A. Marathon starts at Dodger Stadium and ends at the Santa Monica Pier. One of 65 charities participating in the race, Beit T’Shuvah plans to hold a block party on the course.

Nicole Wainstein, a three-month resident of the facility and recovering alcoholic who found Beit T’Shuvah on Google, stood at the 8-mile checkpoint at a recent practice and provided snacks.

“I kind of just want to be a part of it and enjoy the energy,” Wainstein said. “I think it’s amazing what they’re doing for Beit T’Shuvah.”

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