Unlikely couple revolutionizes the world of addiction recovery, mental health
By LA Stories Staff Los Angeles
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT May 01, 2023
It was hardly love at first sight for foul-mouthed, nail polish-wearing, alcoholic Rabbi Mark Borovitz and self-proclaimed misfit Harriet Rossetto.
She was a social worker, helping Jewish inmates — and he was a Jewish inmate, serving time for forgeries and check fraud.
When Rossetto met Borovitz, she thought he was a know-it-all, and he thought she was arrogant. But when Rossetto challenged Borovitz to come help her with a foundation she was building when he was released, to her surprise, he showed up.
Borovitz got sober and proved he had changed. Eventually, they fell in love.
“Both of us had lost our fathers when we were 14,” Rossetto said. “I think that was an important part of the bonding. I think we filled that hole for one another.”
In the latest episode of “LA Stories,” Borovitz and Rossetto share with host Giselle Fernandez the journey that led them to not only finding each other, but also founding Beit T’Shuvah, an addiction treatment center that combines a 12-step program with psychotherapy and the teachings of Judaism.
While they said some professionals in the mental health world told them that combining religion with therapy would never work, their program was a success. Rossetto took on a leading role in helping their clients and building their programs.
Borovitz became ordained as a rabbi and led colorful weekly services at Beit T’Shuvah, complete with rock bands and what he calls “street Torah.”
“Our Friday night services became a rock concert, a 12-step meeting and a revival meeting,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many people said, ‘I’m a Catholic, I’m a Christian, I’m a Muslim, and I had to come to a Jewish recovery center to reclaim my faith.’”
For more than three decades, Borovitz and Rossetto helped people overcome their addictions and get the therapy they needed.
To Rossetto, the concept was simple: “Instead of relating role to role, which is the traditional method, we need to relate soul to soul.”
The couple have left Beit T’Shuvah and are now “semi-retired,” according to Borovitz. Each has written a book on their journeys: Borovitz’s “The Holy Thief” and Rossetto’s “Sacred Housekeeping.”
They both say they’re proud of themselves and the legacy they created with Beit T’Shuvah.
“The greatest creation that we did at Beit T’Shuvah was that everybody belongs,” Borovitz said.
As for Rossetto, she said she will forever cherish being a part of the transformations that happened daily at the foundation.
“It was the greatest high I’ve ever had, was to be part of seeing people evolve from despair to hope and become who they could be,” she said.