Borovitz, Mark 1951–
Borovitz, Mark 1951–
PERSONAL: Born 1951; married Harriet Rossetto (a clinical social worker). Education: National University, B.A.; University of Judaism, M.A. Religion: Jewish.
CAREER: Ordained as rabbi; Congregation Beit T'Shuvah, Los Angeles, CA, rabbi and leader of Beit T'Shuvah recovery program. Instructor at Los Angeles Jewish High School, Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue, and Metivta project.
AWARDS, HONORS: Barbie Weinberg Chai Award, 1997, for outstanding contributions to Jewish values.
(With Alan Eisenstock) The Holy Thief: A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light (memoir), Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Rabbi Mark Borovitz is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beit T'Shuvah in Los Angeles, California, where he also manages the Beit T'Shuvah recovery program. Borovitz, who became involved with organized crime as a teenager and spent time in prison during the 1990s, chronicles his improbable turnaround in the 2004 work The Holy Thief: A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light, cowritten with Alan Eisenstock.
In The Holy Thief Borovitz discusses his early involvement in criminal activities. He engaged in petty theft as a youngster, and by the age of fourteen, after his father's death, was fencing stolen merchandise for the Cleveland mob. "When my father died, I lost my anchor," Borovitz told Penny Schwartz in the Jewish Advocate. "My father was like my compass. I was screwing around but nothing that bad prior to his death. After his death, it was like, what's the use?" In his twenties, Borovitz turned to insurance fraud and check-writing scams, eventually fleeing to Los Angeles after he conned a pair of vengeful mobsters. There he continued his life of crime until he was caught and convicted, his problems with gambling and drinking contributing to his downfall. In 1987, while serving his second stint in prison, Borovitz began studying the Torah with Rabbi Mel Silverman. Upon his release in 1988, Borovitz landed a job at Beit T'Shuvah, whose founder and director, Harriet Rosetto, had visited Borovitz in prison. In 1990 the two were married, and Borovitz was later ordained as a rabbi from the University of Judaism.
At Beit T'Shuvah (Hebrew for "House of Return"), a rehabilitation center for Jewish addicts, Borovitz uses a program that blends traditional worship with the twelve-step principles from Alcoholics Anonymous. "In a world where treating drug and alcohol addiction remains a stubborn therapeutic challenge, Beit T'Shuvah claims that sixty-two percent of its graduates remain straight and sober after five years," wrote Heather Robinson in the Wall Street Journal. "Its staff and many residents believe the key is the center's Jewish spirituality. Morning Torah study, in which Rabbi Borovitz teaches the center's 120 residents to apply the wisdom of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible to their lives, is mandatory, as are Friday night services and ethics classes on Friday afternoons." "I'm blessed," Borovitz told Schwartz, adding, "I'm able to use facets of the tradition every day in my work. It's just joyous."
Reviewing The Holy Thief in Library Journal, Jerry Shuttle observed, "Borovitz's philosophy is 'that every life is worth fighting for…. Every soul can heal.'" According to Schwartz, "The story is largely told in Borovitz's own voice, a thoroughly unique blend of soulful insight mixed with a dose of streetsmart profanity." "Heart-wrenching but hilarious, raw but refreshing, this everyman tale reminds us that even nice Jewish boys can go bad, but they can also be redeemed," concluded a reviewer in Publishers Weekly.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Borovitz, Mark, with Alan Eisenstock, The Holy Thief: A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light (memoir), Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Kamenetz, Roger, Stalking Elijah: Adventures with Today's Jewish Mystical Masters, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 1997.
Booklist, August, 2004, George Cohen, review of The Holy Thief: A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light, p. 1878.
Jewish Advocate, October 15-21, 2004, Penny Schwartz, "Taking Care of Jewish Addicts," p. 34.
Library Journal, September 1, 2004, Jerry Shuttle, review of The Holy Thief, p. 156.
Publishers Weekly, July 26, 2004, review of The Holy Thief, p. 50.
Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2004, Heather Robinson, "Houses of Worship: The Rabbi Guides the Rehab," p. 13.
Holy Thief Web site, http://www.holythief.net/ (April 15, 2005).