Nasty Comments


My name is Rachel Lurie, I am a former resident of Beit T’Shuvah and some of you may know me now as Rabbi Mark Borovitz’s Assistant.

I made the decision the other day to remove a Blog that Rabbi Mark had posted called “I’m a Rabbi and I need your help”, and to also remove the ensuing responses that came from that Blog. I have now been asked by the Rabbi and the Director of Marketing, John Sullivan to explain to you all why I made that decision.

I came to Beit T’Shuvah from Toronto, Canada on November 24th, 2008 and 20 months, almost from the day I got here I moved out. My journey started off very rocky and very dark. I had an extremely difficult time believing this place that I had come to from so far away was going to be able to help me after such a long time of using drugs and drinking alcohol. I thought I was beyond saving. I was wrong. This place, this House of Return, changed my life. The staff here and the friends that I made here helped me to realize that I WAS a child of G-d and that my soul was not forever lost to addiction. Slowly but surely the light inside me began to grow until I was faced with the prospect of having to go back to Canada. I was stuck. All of my friends were moving through the program as they should and I was stuck. I couldn’t work and for the life of me couldn’t figure out how I was going to stay.

Rabbi Mark changed all of that for me. He got me an Immigration Attorney and paid the fees for the Visa extensions to give me time to figure out what I was going to do. Over the past year I started working at Beit T’Shuvah and have now applied for my green card that is due to arrive in October.

I say all of this to you because I want people to read the Blog’s posted on the Beit T’Shuvah page to hear about the lives that are saved here and the experience strength and hope that not only the residents of Beit T’Shuvah find but their families as well.

Rabbi Mark posted his Blog in the hopes that he would get some constructive criticism to better him as the Spiritual Leader of our Community. What happened instead is that it was used by some as a forum for their personal attacks and vicious comments. Those comments do not reflect what Beit T’Shuvah is about and it is certainly not a compass for the unbelievable work that the staff does here every day.

If there are those of you who have a personal issue with Rabbi Mark, I would direct you to post that to his Facebook page or send him an email at tshuvah2@sbcglobal.net.

Please do not tarnish the name and reputation of a place that has saved countless lives, and will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.

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19 Comments

Filed under Beit T'Shuvah

19 responses to “Nasty Comments

  1. Arlene Dyne

    I was irate to read that there are people out there who are tarnishing the name of Beit T’Shuvah / Rabbi Mark. Whoever those people are, they do not know anything about this amazing “House of Return”. Harriet and Rabbi Mark, along with all the Counselors and staff, have created a community, a family like no other. Those people do not know anything about Beit T’Shuvah or Rabbi Mark, because only if you have had a loved one in desparate need of help, can you appreciatiate everything they do to build that person back up from rock bottom. I challenge those people coming to one Shabbat service, and listen to these residents share their stories, that will shut them up pretty fast.

  2. Jae Farkas

    I totally agree with the decision to remove that discussion from the blog. This is not the place for negative spewing of personal animosity which undermines the powerful work accomplished at Beit T’Shuvah.

    This is a public forum that can be read by anyone. I would hate to see someone lose the opportunity to benefit from the miracles unselfishly performed at this amazing place daily, or give the wrong impression of its leadership to those who might be interested in supporting the hard work all of you, including Rabbi Mark, courageously commit yourselves to accomplishing.

    I find it refreshing that Rabbi Mark is willing to make public T’Shuvah when his recognizes the impact of his shortcomings. Like all of us, he is a work in progress. No doubt, his strong personality incites strong responses. However, while I support freedom of speech, this is not the forum for hostility.

    Beit T’Shuvah saves lives, saves families, restores community, sanity and wholeness to broken lives while asking little in return. Its doors swing wide to embrace those who might otherwise have nowhere to turn.

    Rather than undermine the work being done by all of you unsung heros in the battle against this deadly disease, those with personal issues should have the courage to personally approach anyone with whom they have issues.

    My own process includes making sure I have first cleaned up my own side of the street, and remembering that when I point a finger, three point back at me.

    Thank you for everything you do.

    A grateful family member,

    Jae Farkas

  3. Susan Rifkin

    Rachel, thanks for speaking up and taking a stand. Rabbi Mark is human, and thus flawed, as we all are and no one has the right to sit in judgement of him (or anyone else for that matter). He opened himself up for constructive suggestions, and was “thanked” with negativity – totally out of character for BTS teachings. It takes courage to address individual gripes in person, but with technology, it is much easier to hide behind a computer criticize almost anonymously. I hope those that have issues will address them in a more appropriate format and BTS will continue their amazing work.

  4. Mr. A

    I am hearing a lot of excuses for the Rabbi. Why does the Rabbi need Rachel to save him? Why doesn’t he respond himself? Everyone knows that to be human is to be flawed. The Rabbi made a personal plea to his peers and he should man up and hear their response, whatever that may be. I agree that the public BTS venue may not have been appropriate but this was his choice. Maybe these responses are a little to ego-deflating for the Rabbi and for those who worship him. The truth hurts!

    • A.G.

      I really believe this is not about Rachel standing up for the Rabbi. If you truly read this blog, it is about Rachel taking accountability for a choice that she made and explaining it. To deny her that right or to suggest that she is only a “worshipper” to her employer undermines her intelligence and her dignity as a human being.
      As far as what this blog is all about — make no mistake that Beit T’Shuvah saves lives.
      If you have a problem with the Rabbi or any other individual, it is only fair and proper that you take that problem up directly with that individual. Posting it on a website to be vengeful is juvenile and serves no purpose but to create destruction. So before you slander anyone just for the sake of attack, please, I beg you to ask yourself who you want to be in that moment — someone that creates or someone that destroys.

  5. april aubery

    Here is what I know to be true. Last Sunday I attended a function in my neighborhood in the Santa Rosa Valley. There were about 80 people there. Of this 80 by some odd coincidence there are two of us families that have had a child go through Beit T’Shuvah. In my case two children. Kindly, one of the parents came up to me to ask how my two sons were doing. I was blessed beyond belief to report both are doing great and he was able to say the same about his son. We remarked at how blessed we both are to have “The Beit” in our lives and how we are able to smile and have a happy joyous day at the event we were attending without the dark cloud of active addiction over our children’s heads. Because when your loved one is in the throes of active addiction, no matter how great your ala-non program is, at the end of the day it’s still your child and you are sad. But that day, because of Beit T’Shuvah, Rabbi Mark, Harriett, Rabbi Jay and the hard work of our children, we were two sets of smiling parents.

    I am not trying to take away the feelings of those who wrote in this blog. What ever their feelings are they are important to address, but I agree that this is not the proper forum. They should take those feeling directly to Rabbi and he should listen with an open heart both willing to allow a meaningful communication to take place because that’s how growth happens and that is the example we want to set for all to see and feel.

    We must all try to remember that this is how hearts are healed and peace is made. We like to talk about “peace on earth” but we must remember it begins, like charity, at home. One person at a time, one issue at a time. And always in love. And always with G-d’s blessing.

  6. Mr. A

    To: A.G.:
    Quotes are from Rachel’s comments. “Rabbi Mark posted his Blog in the hopes that he would get some constructive criticism to better him as the Spiritual Leader of our Community.” The Rabbi made the decision to post his blog. This blog is in the public venue. It is fair and proper to respond to a statement in a public forum in a like manner.

    “Those comments (the supposed nasty comments) do not reflect what Beit T’Shuvah is about and it is certainly not a compass for the unbelievable work that the staff does here every day.” No one is attacking Beit T’Shuvah! All your straw dog arguments are fallacious. I reject the statement that my comments are juvenile or destructive and I certainly have not slandered anyone.

    I agree that Beit T’ Shuvah saves lives but I continue to ask why is everyone so hypersensitive about comments to Rabbi Mark?

    A.G., – my comments do not address Rachel, or Beit T’Shuvah but only the Rabbi so direct your comments appropriately. This issue might not be so impassioned if the Rabbi’s behavior was less contentious. Oh…..to answer your question….in that moment….I want to be both.

    Post script: I am extremely grateful to be an ex-resident of Beit T’Shuvah and I am still a member of the community, and BTS saved and changed my life. Does this mean I shouldn’t speak the truth?

  7. Sophie

    I didn’t realize the original post was only put up to praise and “kiss ass” to the Rabbi. I thought constructive thoughts we asked for. Just because others feel differently than you, Rachel, does not make those feeling any less valid. My comments were not directed towards the amazing work of BTS or of it’s supportive staff………it was directed towards the Rabbi and of my two years of observing him, my opinions of him. You look at him through rose colored glasses. How you view him is not how most do. I know this from what I see on a daily basis and from what I hear from residents…….over and over again.

    Arlene: I go to at least two services a month and am an active member of the community and an ex resident, so I am able to give my opinion. This place saved my life and I value every moment I able to be there. However, Rabbi Mark was not a part of that. I scheduled one appointment with him and he barely paid attention to me. Apparently whatever he was doing on the computer was more important. I was in his office for less than ten minutes. My opinion of his of ego and humility is not bashing him, I respect him for what he does, I just do not like him for his personality, attitude, posturing and any lack of humility.

    And for him to say he does not have favorites, he is blind to the truth. Yes, no one is turned away for lack of fund, but goodness knows if you have a family that is paying lots of money they certainly get ‘special’ treatment. If you are musically or artistically talented or are in any way connected to the Entertainment Industry, you get “special” treatment.

    Now Rabbi Jay, he was a mench. He always made time for anyone. My heart is sad that I no longer have him there for support and teachings

    • Mr. A

      To Sophie:
      I am a ex resident and also an active member of the community. I agree with everything that you stated in your comments. I heard the Rabbi today make a lot of excuses for behaving the way he does but not once did I hear him say that he hears what people are saying and he is trying to work on myself to behave better. In his new blog he encourages us to make an appointment with him so that we can discuss these issues directly and implies that writing these comments was hiding behind our anonymity. In reality he rebuffs many of those who try to meet with him and getting an appointment with him is literally an act of G-d.

  8. johnsullivan7

    I love this whole blog thing! Isn’t it great? Everyone can speak out to the community on whatever, 12-steps, surf therapy, the new gambling program and you can even express your dislike of Rabbi Mark.

    Disclaimer: Rabbi Mark is my boss (and friend)

    My intention here is not to stick up for Rabbi because, well, he don’t need it and frankly I don’t feel the need to do it either. Rather I would like to give an account to my own experience with the man.

    First of all my name is Sullivan, not Sullyman, Sullinberg or Sullystein. I’m Irish not Jewish. Second, I have no $$$$$$. Why the F&#K would Rabbi want a broke mick fresh out of jail? He probably didn’t. Nonetheless I was admitted and my experience with Rabbi in my first 90 days was limited, ethics and the occasional passing in the hall in which he never said boo to me.

    Rabbi was a little intimidating and I’m sure I wasn’t the picture perfect resident (missing front teeth, tattoos on the neck and all that good stuff). As time went on I felt I was doing so well in my recovery and I deserved more recognition from him and the passing in the hall with no hello began to hurt my feelings (boo hoo). I witnessed his relationships with other residents, all the attention he gave them, the opportunities, the help and yes the loans so they could buy something they needed for work or school. WTF! I needed some help.

    I soon grew tired of these feelings and I deduced I would have to be the one to “reach out”, after all the man does look busy. I set an appointment. At our first meeting I must admit I was fearful. I was unsure of how to act or what to say but I just went for it because I just knew Rabbi was a man that could help me. Many of our meetings Rabbi was busy on the computer, but he heard what I was saying. Many appointments he cancelled but I rescheduled. As time went on and I made the time for him, he made the time for me. For Christ’s sake, Rabbi didn’t even like me and later told me he thought I wouldn’t last 2 months but he still gave me a chance. My point is the onus was on me. It was my life, my recovery and my experience.

    The moral of this story for me at least was to stick it out and go after something I wanted for myself that was good (unlike heroin, crime, etc.). My experience with Rabbi in those early days of recovery taught me an invaluable lesson I have taken out into my life that has served me and mine well.

    So today I’d like to think I’m pretty tight with Rabbi Mark, he is my boss, my friend and my teacher. Is it because I’m a rich Jewish kid? Not possible. Is it because I’m a talented musician? Nope. Is it because I went after Rabbi with a desire to learn how to live well? I think so.

    • Sophie

      Hi John. My experience was that I DID try to go to him, to have some relationship. I walked in to his office my first months there and wanted to introduce myself to him, thank him and his wife for letting me be in their ‘home’. I swear on everything, he was writing something, glanced up, looked back down and said “oh, that’s nice”. I stood there, apparently end of conversation. I was stunned at his rudeness………I said something else, no response, I walked out. I said previously that I was in his office “less than ten minutes”, I just noticed the typo, it was less than 1 minute. Harriet was a different story, she took a few minutes of her time to smile and thank me for taking the time to introduce myself. I didn’t expect a brass band or a parade from the Rabbi, maybe just a second of eye contact and a “hi, welcome” (or something like that) – over the many months I made appointments, several, they were always canceled. I said hello and smiled whenever I saw him, NEVER did I get one in return. I would be standing with other residents and he would say hello (sometimes) and mention them by name…….not me. It wasn’t till my 8th or so month there that during ethics he asked a question, I raised my hand and he asked what my name was………..after seeing me every day and my trying to form some kind of relationship I realized he did not even know my name. Yeah, that hurt……okay, boo hoo, I’m over it. I’m well liked by the staff and the other residents. I follow direction, and volunteer to go out of my way to help the community in the office or in whatever capacity they might need. I drive residents to meeting in the van…………..I have a bond and respect for BTS that goes beyond words. It does not apply to Rabbi Mark. I’ve gotten my advice and spiritual guidance and life help from Cantor Rebekah and Rabbi Jay.

      The way the Rabbi performs at the podium, when he has an audience to feed his ego, makes my stomach turn. I’m not bashing him, just commenting on my observations. It’s a performance for him. His little cult laughing on cue.

      John, I know that BTS takes everyone, and not everyone who he likes has money or connections, but there is a definite pattern with him. It’s not my observation alone on this, it’s well observed and known by many. I also realize that it’s donations that keep this place open, but those whose families donate more should not have there children treated differently.

      I think you are an amazing man and am awed by how you have turned your life around and the person you are. You impress me greatly – and if the Rabbi was personally a part of that, wonderful…………..I’m only speaking for my self and my observations and experiences.

      This is not a bashing post – just my feelings.

  9. johnsullivan7

    Sophie,
    Thank you for the compliments and the most important thing here is you have gained a community and from the sounds of it you are living a good life today. As you know the odds are against us, so you are one of the miracles.
    Like I said in my comment, this blog thing is wonderful! A place you can talk about stuff in an open forum, maybe even get feedback or help.

    My guess is the Rabbi probably knows your name after reading your post and might I suggest just for the sake of trying one more time, go in to his office and see if there there is a change in the way you 2 can talk.
    Just an idea?

    • sophie

      Hi John, thank you for this kind exchange of thoughts. Although we may disagree on some things, I appreciate that we can agree to disagree in our perceptions and opinions with respect.

      I make just take your advice and try one more time. But one thing I have learned from BTS is not to take things so personally and live in resentment of people and things I have no control over. I spent a lot of time angry towards him – that anger is gone. He is who he is and I am just me……………My feeling about his actions towards others are the same, but I stopped feeling the bitterness quite a while ago.

      My name is not Sophie – and I’m not hiding behind a computer or playing games. I just feel that by not using my real name I am helping to prevent what might turn into a situation where I am no longer welcome at BTS.

      I am your facebook friend – and if you would like to continue this conversation or know anything else about me let me know and I will contact you via that site.

      Thank you so much for your sharing your perspective with me

  10. Jae Farkas

    I’m rethinking my original opinion regarding taking the blog discussion down. I don’t know Rabbi Mark personally, what I know is that my daughter is going on 8 months of sobriety and that my husband and I love the community, the rock and roll services, the cool residents, great families and the incredible energy of this place. As a child of the 60’s, an activist and a natural rebel, for the first time, I’ve found a place to be Jewish that feels like a fit.

    A great deal of what works for addicts, family and others at Beit is that it is real, out there, painfully honest and self-reflective. Whatever I think about some of the posts on the subject of Rabbi Mark, I love that BTS, the community, residents and staff are fearless in regard to their willingness to tackle the painful, the ugly and controversial without mopping it up.

    After the Rabbi reposted the blog and invited comments to continue, I realized how important it is that everyone is welcome to spew, share, reflect, condemn, apologize, argue, swear and consider from their guts on the blog as well as on site without censorship or reprisal.

    What I love about BTS is that it creates the opposite of the spiritually vacant rote performances of my childhood temple experiences. We don’t make small talk in the lobby, we greet as family. We don’t just politely murmur meaningless prayers during services, we rock out, shout, swagger, clap and sometimes swear as we celebrate the very real life and death struggle that has brought everyone together in a quest for spiritual wholeness.

    This blog isn’t PR, it’s become a place that anyone can freely speak their minds with Rabbi Mark’s invitation to all commers. We can disagree, we can get really mad, we can evolve and change.

    So I take it all back about making nice. That’s how most people wound up at Beit T’Shuvah in the first place. While some of your comments are pretty off-the-wall, that’s what is great about this community. One thing we can all agree about is that BTS is never boring. And one thing we can all agree about is that Rabbi Mark has chutzpah!

  11. liz

    Let’s take a few things into consideration. My parents paid FULL price for me to attend BTS, (WHO KNOWS what that amounts too according to harriet) yet i was still taken to GENERAL RELIEF, and given 20$ per month out of their cheque. Had i had any inclination to believe in karma, i would laugh at the fact that madoff took them to the cleaners after that point. but anyhow..

    The esteemed Rabbi told BOTH of my PHD holding/ATHEIST parents that the the invisible sky fairy that he deems to be “GOD”. not only believes in them, but also believes in me! That arrogant and assessment has us both laughing until this day.

    After his ghost written book about his criminal past, he allowed a wedding to occur between two clients who met this very rehab, and actually performed the service in this “house of return” before a whole audience of rehabers who he tells not to fraternize.

    With “hardly ANY DUE RESPECT to anyone’s personal account of their “life saving” story about beit t’shuvah, someone who is within their right mind has to realize that the rabbi is still a criminal, walking under the pretense of a god that never existed. people are entitled to some credit for their own life experience and actions on here, if the rabbi took some, good for him, although i highly doubt it. expect this post to last about three minutes on

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