Monthly Archives: April 2012

Passion Meets Creativity Meets The World of Beit T’Shuvah

By Julie Soter

Beit T’Shuvah strives to imbue each of us with passion, instructing us to use our passions to help the community. Two of my passions are creating beautiful environments and interacting with people.  When I first heard about the residence re-design project, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to participate, knowing that these two passions would be ignited.


Men’s Room #219 had a pleasant view of the courtyard, and that was about it.  We demolished the room down to its bare bones and started from scratch, adding much more than a fresh coat of paint.


Those Who Provided moral support, product donations, labor and financial contributions…Their generosity helped fund new bedding, closets, desks, chairs, an incredible wall with vibrant messages, and a functional and attractive bathroom with a pretty cool shower head.

My Brother-In-Law, the general contractor, who schlepped to Ikea, Home Depot and Beit T’Shuvah multiple times to provide his invaluable labor and expertise.

The Artist, a recovering addict who turned his passion for illegal graffiti into a lasting, legal, stunning and startling creation on a wall at Beit T’Shuvah.

The Newly Sober Young Man who I met in the hallway one day.  Still kicking, he was wearing dark sunglasses and a head covering to keep him warm.  I asked him to remove his sunglasses and I saw a beautiful soul behind the still pain-wracked body…please recover your passion and discover your purpose.

The Project Supervisor, two years sober, putting in 16-hour days, 7 days a week, overwhelmed with requests (demands???) from a bunch of perfectionistic designers, never losing his cool, always trying to accommodate everyone.

The Current Residents of Room 219, a lovely gentleman who has reconnected with his children and has been able to remain sober even through the loss of his father, who loves to journal every night before going to sleep; and the vulnerable, sweet once-a-day-cigar smoker, committed to leading a better life, wanting to catch a golf tournament on his unwieldy television during his down time.

My Son, who Beit T’Shuvah breathed life back into, slowly, one day at a time, who is approaching two years of sobriety.  He is the light of my life, and I am beyond grateful on a daily basis for the healing power of Beit T’Shuvah and the inner strength it has taken my magnificent boy to conquer his demons.


Today, I am fulfilled…my passions helped create a peaceful haven for the two continually rotating men who are being given the opportunity to regain their sobriety, dignity and productiveness through Beit T’Shuvah’s incredible life-saving and life-altering program.

May the current and future residents of Room 219 continue the healing process.


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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Charity Design Project, Gratitude

Remembering the LA Riots

20 years ago today our beloved City of Angels was in chaos.  20 years ago today we were classified as a disaster zone.  20 years ago today you couldn’t look outside without seeing the smoke or hearing the broken glass and shattered screams.  Some may have already forgotten it ever happened and to others it’s simply a blurb in a history text book but the truth is that the LA Riots of 1992 were a very real event that should not be forgotten.LA Riots

The scene in 1992 Los Angeles was one of heated racial tensions.  60% of the LAPD was white and minorities were facing heavy prejudices from law enforcement.  The spark that ignited the flame came after the beating of a black LA native named Rodney King.  The LAPD officers who were charged with having beaten Rodney, who gained national notoriety for what was done to him, were acquitted.   That acquittal drove the city into pandemonium.  The outcry started as a call for justice but eventually unraveled into a scene of greater depravity than had ever been seen in our country before.

LA RiotsStore windows were shattered, cars were attacked, fires were started, people were shot—and there was seemingly no one to stop the insanity.  The LAPD didn’t have enough man power to stem the riots and so the National Guard was finally called in.  After the initial 3 days of rioting the destruction had resulted in 55 people dead, 1,573 businesses destroyed, and a total cost of $1 billion dollars.   Two of the most memorable scenes from the LA riots were the assault and beating of Reginald Denny, a trucker who was just driving through the city, and the murder of an unarmed minority school girl named Latasha Harlins.  The thing that was most striking about the LA riots was that, due to video technology, the scenes of destruction and chaos were televised as never before.

In this year, the 20th anniversary of the riots, Rodney King has published his book, The Riot Within, to give his view on LA riots and the mind-set that led to them.

One of the promises of AA says that, “We shall not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”  This means that sometimes things must be learned the hard way and if we do make a mistake we should learn from it and do our best to never repeat it.  If we were to shut the door on our past, we might let it fade into obscurity.  By forgetting how horrible our mistakes were, we might lose the strength to continue on in sobriety.

The LA riots were a horrific tragedy in the history of Los Angeles.  The only way we can make sure that they never happen again is to honor those who were victims during the riots and to constantly be improving ourselves.

What do you remember about the LA Riots?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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LA Marathon – The Finish Line: Part 4/4

By Jaron Zanerhaft

“Last year, I flashed this badge and they let me through the police line.  I parked just two blocks away,” John Sullivan says with a sly grin.   As we slow down to take our exit ramp, John and I practice showing our press passes to imaginary parking guards, pulling the lanyards with cocky conviction and cool self-validation.

It didn’t work.  The police line this year had been pushed back two blocks, leaving the VIP street parking from last year open to the public.  We had to wait for someone to leave, just to get a spot in a parking garage.

Turning a corner out of the garage, the sharp wind turned on like a switch, immediately asking more of us in each step.

We arrived at the gate where media could enter the finish line area, and, flashing our badges just like we had practiced, the guards parted the metal barricades and let us walk through the line.  As soon as we breached the gate, we were bombarded with runners, family supporters, volunteers, and gust after gust of windswept foil anti-hypothermia blankets.

Once we were within the vicinity, the four of us—John, Erin, Lauren, and I—made our way to the actual finish line.  More security demanded our press identification as we climbed up less-than-sturdy metal stairs to a perch looming over the runners as they took their final strides.

So many runners threw their arms up as they crossed the threshold from the battalion of runners into the civilian support mob.  Some raised their hands above their head with open palms, as if surrendering at last to their exhaustion.  But others raised clenched fists, as if to claim victory over the road that had over the last 6 or 7 hours tried to defeat them.

I never imagined my overtime work would have me gazing from a platform above a set of digital clocks presenting finishing times— literally, working over time.

The slick canvas banner doubled over itself by the wind over its single steel-bar skeleton, its incessant whipbang against the frame supporting clocks beneath.  As another banner spread over the platform’s front started to pick up more and more wind, two men in matching solid-colored polo shirts rushed up the metal stairs to the platform so they could take down the would-be sail.

Finally, when Gini, John’s wife, crossed the finish line, we started to pack up our gear and head out.  Somehow, I made it home, collapsed on my bed, and slept until nightfall. I felt like I had run the marathon myself.  Next year, maybe I actually will.


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2nd Mini Reveal: An Experiment In The Art Of Zen

We’ve hit another milestone in the journey that is Beit T’Shuvah’s Charity Design Project.  This past Sunday, a lot of words got thrown around—words like “thank you,” “I’m so happy,” and “this is amazing” came pouring from the lips of the astonished residents.  But the main word that could be taken from the day was “Zen.”  So many of the designers stated how they “were going for a feeling of Zen and tranquility,” and it’s safe to say they hit the nail on the head.

After weeks of hard work, it was a joyful and somewhat chaotic day.  Hoards of people crowded in Beit T’Shuvah’s hallways, all hoping to get the first glimpse at one of the rooms.  However, Heidi Bendetson and Rhonda Snyder, the two women coordinating the Charity Design Project, kept it all in order.  The most important thing was that the first people inside each room were the designers and the residents.

Below is a small sampling of pictures from the 2nd Charity Design Mini Reveal.


Zen Painting

Zen Graffiti in Room 219

Room 219

The Resident, The Painter, and The Designer

Room 215

The 3 Designers: Anat, Christina, and Debra with a grateful resident

The newly-designed room 215

Room 219

The resident of room 219 sits for a picture with his designer and Heidi and Rhonda

Room 108

The 'Charlie's Angels' Designers of room 108--Shelly, Debra, and Madeline

Room 108 Charity Design

The Tiffany Blue serenity of room 108


Room 211 offers a little piece of paradise.

For all of the photos from Sunday’s event, please visit Beit T’Shuvah’s Flickr page, and for before photos of all the rooms please visit the Designed From The Heart Facebook page.

Tell us what you thought about the rooms in the comments below.

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Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, Charity Design Project, Current Events

Schedule for 2nd Design Project Mini Reveal

The excitement is building as the week progresses toward the Mini Reveal on Sunday!  We can’t wait to see the design creations.  Once again, we want all the designers to know how much we appreciate their effort, time and big hearts.  There will only be 15 minutes between viewing the rooms so to all in attendance, please be ready so we can move smoothly through the process.  Here is the schedule for Sunday April 15, 2012……….
1:00 – Room # 211
1:15 – Room # 215
1:30 – Room # 217
1:45 – Room # 219
2:00 – Room # 108
2:15 – Room # 110
2:30 – Room # 114
If you can’t make it do this Mini Reveal, don’t worry.  The Grand Reveal Open House will be taking place July 12, 2012 where all will be welcome to come and see the rooms!

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Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, Charity Design Project, Current Events

LA Marathon – The Block Party: Part 3/4

By Jaron Zanerhaft

Driving from the transition zone to the block party presented the greatest challenge yet.  With a good portion of major streets closed, we had a couple of options: backtrack to the highway or brave the backstreets.  So we went off to navigate the Hollywood hills, and we were almost successful. Ultimately, the 101 called our name.  Tired and tense, we pulled up next to a curb on Selby, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard at Mile 19 of 26.2.  It was the perfect location to give our runners the extra jolt and motivation they needed to keep on running.


By the time my crew and I arrived, the party was in full swing.  The sun was just dipping into the afternoon, clusters of friends spread along the entire block, and up on stage Cantor Rachel rocked out with a killer band.

I hadn’t eaten since before Dodger Stadium and found myself immensely grateful for the wonderful spread of bagels, baked goods, and other Jewish food.  I allowed myself to do some extra reporting at these tables.  Walking back towards the stage, I saw Luke walking around with a microphone, announcing runners who were coming our way.

I was most impressed by how the welcoming arms of the Beit T’Shuvah block party brought encouragement to runners of all sorts. More and more student runners passed, along with wheelchair racers, Kenyans, and even an older gentleman in a Spiderman costume.  Anytime a blue shirt came into view, the crowd excitedly leaned forward to recognize one of their own.  Embraces and showers of praise fell on the Beit T’Shuvah team while inaudible murmurs of “Residents: Get out of the street!” came over the PA.

Worth mentioning, the port-a-potties were the classiest I’ve seen, with carpeting and modernized mechanisms.   I also must say, I enjoyed the unique DJ stylings of Joseph Trop-Zell.  I found the other members of my office, the ones who weren’t in the middle of an assignment but just out to support the team.  I shared my story so far with them and felt the burden of the exhausting morning lift off of my back.   I was ready for one more stop.

A couple of hours later, I found myself in the passenger seat of John Sullivan’s car heading for the finish line.

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It’s Easier to Follow than to Lead: The Passover Blog

By Zak Kraus

Once free from the oppression laid unto us by another man, it is then the responsibility of the individual to relieve themself from the mindset that allowed them to become captive in the first place.

   Slavery is usually represented through the act of entrapment from master to servant.  Although this element of slavery is evident in the story of Passover, I don’t necessarily think it is the element of slavery that was most detrimental to the Jewish people.  The bondage of self, the inability to see one’s own worth is far more oppressive to the spirit than any physical entrapment.  We become our own worst enemies when we succumb ourselves to the lies we tell our self.

Sobriety for me is a by-product of living well.  Complacency and comfort acted as slave drivers for my entrapment.  Similar to the Jews in the decades prior to exodus, self-bondage had never allowed me to envision a change in my life. It was easier to maintain a way of life I was familiar with, rather than forge new roads to a greater destiny.

Freedom is a funny thing though, with freedom comes responsibility and choices.  Much is the same with the story of Passover.  It wasn’t long till the Israelites found themselves in the desert, daunted by giant sky and open sands.  The journey the Israelites were about to embark upon would become their education in freedom.

MatzahPassover today is celebrated as a reminder of what our ancestors went through to gain their freedom.  Through prayer, food, and family we can rejoice in the freedom that we have today to become whatever we envision in our lives.

This year, Beit T’Shuvah will be holding a Passover Seder for 3 nights in a row–April 6, 2012 through April 8, 2012, with all nights starting at 6:30 pm.  The final evening will include a performance of the original Beit T’Shuvah musical, Freedom Song.  All are welcome to attend and eat with us in this remembrance of our freedom from bondage.  You can get all the info including ways to sponsor a resident’s Seder meal at .


Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, Current Events, Freedom Song, Judaism, Temple