Monthly Archives: May 2012

An Orthodox Paradox

By Eliana Katz

Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. It is intended to spark discussion and debate. It is not the opinion of Beit T’Shuvah but a sole individual from within, who subscribes both to Orthodox Judaism and Rabbi Mark Borovitz’s obvious though ground-breaking notion of being ‘Just Jewish.’


Orthodox Rally at Citi FieldMany of you probably know that 40,000 Hassidic Men gathered a few days ago at Citi Field in NYC to discuss the dangers of the Internet in the home of Hassidic Jews. Women were not welcome in the gathering. This gathering has garnered much backlash, on multiple levels, from a variety of people, including incensed Jews. Hassidic Jews may mutter in Yiddish with wagging, cautionary fingers of the dangers of Internet addiction, but it seems the Internet is roaring with disapproval in response.


I came across quite a few riled responses. Here are some:

The Religious Fanatics Who Want to Protect Men From Women


Victims Protest Rabbis- Protect Our Children


But then, via my college roommate I came across this article- a response from an educated and even humorous Hassidic woman on all the backlash. What Women’s Media Needs to Know About Hassidic Women

ChayaMy roommate posted the article with the question “Any thoughts?” posed to her like-minded professor of women’s studies.

Needless to say, she, and many other Facebook friends had quite a few. All of which were coming down very strongly on Chaya.


Perhaps it’s my lifelong Orthodox Jewry or maybe my perpetual love for the underdog, but I felt the need to respond- something I rarely do on Facebook! I felt myself conflicted with the same arguments as my peers, but at the same time, encouraged by her words.


Here are my thoughts- I’d LOVE to hear yours! [copied straight off my Facebook post- so pardon any typos!]


“Oh my goodness, where to begin. I had so much to say and after reading article after article, comment after comment, alas i am deflated. On the one hand, as your resident ‘nonfeminist who respects feminism’ friend, I felt compelled to defend Chaya. However misguided, she paints an articulate, humorous, compelling visual of her hassidic joy. As a relatively observant orthodox jew, who is, by feminist terms ‘oppressed’ in a lot of the same ways chaya speaks of, i actually agree with chaya in that i find my life and many of it’s rules rewarding. and i dont think that makes me ignorant or small minded. i live by choices, and i choose my orthodoxy each day, in whatever form it takes, and it fulfills me. Perhaps, as Deborah feldman points out, that is a luxury. I was not brought up to be *completely* ostracized for my less religious choices, or at least there’s little that I have chosen that I cannot win the support of my family with an articulate conversation. And, in another support to Chaya’s argument, this is her turn to tell her story. We’ve heard all the stories of rape, molestation, domestic abuse, lack of education, etc. But we cry out in anguish if someone expresses that she might just be happy. We only know what we hear, or at best, what we inspect. But we are not hassidic jews. Or at least, I am not. And i don’t claim to know the universally experienced emotion (happiness or sadness) of an entire sect of people. (Ironically, nor should she, but i’ll get to that point). On the flipside, i do agree that Chaya is speaking in a vacuum. Though i don’t live in the hassidic world, as I just argued, I think it’s a pretty plain fact that most hassidic women are not college graduates who blog. I also felt she unveiled a bit of her small mindedness by claiming that being described as ‘ants marching into a building’ or whatever was tantamount to the jew-as-insect metaphor of WWII. It’s a fucking descriptive. It’s painting a visual. It’s not an anti-semitic slur. Those kinds of accusations, well, breed…anti-semitism. I guess all in all I am fond of her for taking a stab at defending her happiness and her choices, though I do find her ‘skinny-jeaned coke-snorting’ diatribe to be heavily misguided. I will say that I am happy to see a right wing orthodox jewish woman who is bold and articulate enough to make an argument for herself on the internet, though perhaps unaware of the backlash it would garner. Frankly, the compelling stories are always about rape and discrimination. As my husband (Yes- I chose marriage) jokes about me, I tend to prefer the movies with ‘transgender amputee meth-heads who are bipolar’ over the rom-coms. But I think it’s ok to read about something as boring as happiness and not have such a guttural, revolted reaction.”





Filed under Community, Current Events, Judaism

The Road Home

Home is a place where you were born to belong.  It’s where you grow, where you learn, where you find out who you are. Home is a springboard that launches you from a solid foundation into the air and home is also the cushion for when you don’t land on your feet. 

For Jews on every continent, home is a physical reality.  Most Jews live in the Diaspora, but no matter what, the Jewish people can always call Israel home.

For the residents of Beit T’Shuvah, home has been nothing more than a fictional construction, a fabrication of a normal life that has long been out of reach.  The actions of their past lives have caused them to forget that, as part of the Jewish People, they will always have a home.

“My grandfather lived in Palestine for 2 years after he escaped Germany in 1938,” says Josh, one of the participants slated for this trip.  Josh looks forward to this chance to reconnect with his heritage, and he sees Israel in part as a family home in addition to a homeland.

Before he occupied a bed at Beit T’Shuvah, Josh had spent time living in the bed of his 2001 Toyota Tacoma pick-up: a ragged (though still running) collection of sunburnt paint, a front bumper bent on both sides, only two out of four hubcaps, and a broken latch on the hardshell camper that gave him shelter. This summer, Josh will be able to call a much larger collectionof images home: the shimmering Kineret near the Golan Heights, the lights of city night life in Tel-Aviv, loud vendors selling perfectly crispy-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside green falafel, the hot sun in the Negev, the smooth yet grainy mud at the Dead Sea, and the slick Jerusalem stone worn down by millennia of Jewish feet.

An Israeli Falafel Stand

Israel became the Jewish home at the end of the biblical journey of Hebrew slaves who had escaped Egypt.  Beit T’Shuvah culture emphasizes the connection between this journey to Israel and an addict’s journey to sobriety.  In the musical Freedom Song, the comparison is made directly, but through groups, individual therapy, programs, and torah study, Beit T’Shuvah instills in its residents the perspective that they themselves have escaped slavery, that when they were in their addiction, no place could feel like their own home.  Now sober, these 12 Beit T’Shuvah residents are finally able to feel at home.

The only thing in the way for each of them is their own $500 ticket to New York.  From there, Taglit-Birthright will take care of their homecoming.  You can make sure they get there by clicking here and donating to the cause.

Tel-Aviv by Night


Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, Community, Current Events, Gratitude, Spirituality

Can My Phone Keep Me Sober?

We are living in the modern age of sobriety.  No longer does sobriety mean having to trudge an hour in the snow, Big Book in hand, to get to a meeting.  No longer must people judge their sobriety date based off of the position of Jupiter.  For our time is the time of phone apps.   Apps that tell you where meetings are, give you daily reflections, and can even offer the entire Big Book in digitized form.

With so many options out there in Appland, it is clear to me that people in recovery need a way to pick through the duds and find the app that really speaks to them.  Below is a review of some of the really awesome apps out there for sober people—Enjoy!

Phone AppsDays Sober

This free app is really just keeping it simple.  Consisting of nothing more than a calendar that tells you how many days you have, it performs one simple function and performs it well.

AA Big Book—Georgia Sobriety

Considering all that this app has to offer, you wouldn’t expect it to be free but the nice folks at Georgia Sobriety have made it available without charge.  On top of daily reflections and a useful sobriety calculator, this app offers the first 164 pages of the Big Book broken down by chapter.  Altogether, this app is a nifty tool to be sober on the go.

One Day At A Time

Costing $1.99, this app markets itself as “the only Big Book app with Passage Highlighting.”  One can’t deny that this feature makes it effortless for people to find daily prayers and passages that stood out to them.  They even have frequently used prayers like the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.  The application also offers a feature to keep your AA contacts separated in your phone, allowing for easy access to other people in recovery.  Topping it off with a sobriety counter, this app is meant to be the one stop shop for sobriety phone apps.


Created by the famous Promises Recovery Center, this app is meant as a companion to the newly sober.  While many of its features are common in other applications, a sobriety counter and meeting directory, the thing that makes this app stand out is its trigger alerts.  The user simply enters in things that trigger them to drink or use and the app will periodically remind you of them to let you know if you are walking that dangerous line.

12 Steps Companion

Lots of the apps out there can tell you how many days sober you have.  This app calculates it to the minute.  More than just an improved sobriety calculator, this app also offers a complete Big Book and all of the numbers for local AA offices.  The only downside is the app costs $2.99.

Know of any other good ones? Tell us your favorite Sobriety App in the comments below.


Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous

My 3 Weeks in Room 100

By Andie Miller
     I feel so fortunate to have been a part of the Design Project for Beit T’Shuvah.  It’s a designer’s dream, designing a room carte blanche.  Ideas and visions were flowing—I wasn’t sure where to start.  I found myself calling on Mark Haloossim, owner of Contempo Flooring.  After going through what was needed, a commercial grade carpet that could withstand a lot of foot traffic, and rifling through carpet choices, Mark said, “I have a rather large remnant from a previous job, would you like to see it?”  That carpet remnant became the inspiration for my room.  The first week of the project was spent clearing out the existing space, wiping the slate clean.   Russell and Lance, 2 amazing Beit T’Shuvah residents, removed out all the old furniture, existing carpet, baseboard, sink ,toilet, and mirror leaving only the shower/bath unit.  Rick Brown, a contractor that I use on all my jobs, and a few of his guys came next.  They floated out the ceiling, replaced and installed a bathroom door and jam, gutted the closet, replaced electrical fixtrures, and began patching and painting the walls and ceiling.  The following week Rick and Will helped me install a new closet system, bathroom flooring, headboard, and chair rail a new door jam and door for the bathroom, a much needed addition since the existing door swung outward into the entry hallway making it impossible to enter the room if the door of the bathroom was open.  Crown and base molding in the main room followed, along with installing the new bathroom fixturesJ.  Room 100 was beginning to look like what I had envisioned.
    Now that the room was coming together, I had to think about the furnishings.  The second inspiration I had was by chance.  I was at the Santa Monica Airport Flea Market, looking around, and came upon a beautiful crystal chandelier at Mickey Goldin’s booth. He is a regular vendor selling old and new chandeliers for over 10 years at this flea market.  After telling him what I was doing at Beit T’Shuvah he gave me a huge discount, as he learned it was going to such a good cause.  From that point forward, each piece that I found for the room found me.  Every piece of furnishing was by chance, everything falling into place so smoothly as if some greater force put each furnishing in my path.
    The best part of working on this project was the people. I became closer with people I had known for years and met new people with incredible stories. An inspiring conversation that leaves one feeling fulfilled is the greatest gift anyone could ask for and I found that and so much more working on room 100.
    Although frenetic at times, the atmosphere at Beit T’Shuvah was so incredibly supportive, uplifting and caring, more so than any other place I have ever been to or worked at. One can feel the power of healing by just being amongst the people there.
    For those that live in room 100, know that this room was put together by people who care and believe in you.  I do want to thank Mark Haloossim, Contempo Flooring, for donating such beautiful and durable carpet for my room and the Women’s Lounge along with Rick Brown and Will for donating there countless hours spent helping rebuild the room.  They too are recovering addicts who have been clean for many years that wanted others to know that there is support wherever you may be. Those that reside in room 100, please know we believe you deserve a chance to rebuild your life and that the room is your haven for you to grow.  Lastly, a huge thank you to Craig Miller and Lance Wright, whose tireless help, work, and support will never go unnoticed and always be remembered.

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

Consistent for 14 Generations

By Jaron Zanerhaft

On Saturday, April 21, 2012, I watched His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak at the Long Beach Arena.  The lines, perhaps 10,000 people strong, stretched into the parking lot for hours, with metal detectors and heightened security allowing people in at a trickle. Neo-hippies, college professors, Vegan protestors, and everyone in between were represented at this Long Beach happening. A friend and I arrived early but still ended up waiting in line long past his supposed 1:30 start time.  When we finally entered the atrium, we found ourselves in a veritable bazaar of Tibetan wares, Himalayan incense, and general Buddhist literature including His Holiness’s published writings.Dalai lama, long beach, arena, aquarium, peace talks

Just as we took our seats, the Dalai Lama shuffled on stage with a wide smile, took off his shoes, folded his legs beneath him on his too-large arm chair, donned a sun visor, and dove right into a childhood anecdote about riding on his mother’s shoulders and yanking her ears to steer her in the direction he wanted her to walk in.

In his notoriously goofy style, the 14th Dalai Lama delivered a string of seemingly unrelated ideas including the family origins of Anxiety, the possibility of religious unity, secular ethics, compassion and simplicity, true richness and equality, masks, and even objectification of our fellow human beings.  Many of these ideas are not new in the world, but to hear them all put together in one speech, delivered in less than two hours—that is something novel.

I have heard ideals of peace and truth preached from religious leaders, friends, and musicians, but I find it difficult to hold everything together long enough to move forward with a coherent and consistent set of actions.  I empathize with friends during their tough times, but I find it hard to imagine that actual people occupy the other cars during rush hour.  I bowing, dalai lama, 14, compassion, humilitystudy hard when I see a clear path to knowledge, but I run away when I encounter confusion.  I am a characteristically tenacious and loyal friend, yet I still struggle to keep in touch with those who matter most to me if distance divides us.

I believe that it is time to heed His Holiness’s unspoken, implicit message of consistency.  There’s too much good in this world to let any event pass without imbuing some form of that goodness into it.  At least for a moment, my eyes are open, and I am grateful that I can see.

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Filed under Community, Current Events, Education, Family Wellness, Gratitude, International, Spirituality, Temple

Groups of Ones

By Snacky Mild

“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.”

-M. Scott Peck

In short, I think to be a part of a community is to be brave.  Whispering sweet nothing, fantasy dreamscapes in a game of pillow talk with your significant other is a much different thing than being open, transparent, and vulnerable to an audience.  There, in that nest of comfort, between those warm sheets of love, we feel safe: guarded against the world and its judgments.

It takes courage to let people in, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, because there is always the chance that we might get hurt.  There is a chance we might not receive all that we think we deserve.  I know for me personally it takes a lot to let someone in; because when I do it means I care, and when I care there is the chance my feelings will be hurt.  It takes a lot of bravery to trust others.  Sometimes the hardest part is letting go of our entitlement, finding fulfillment in the success of the community; placing less value on the success of our pocket books and bank accounts.

I think truly being a part of a community is about understanding how crucially intertwined we all are.  People are very sensitive creatures, battling feelings of envy, fear, and insecurity.  It comes down to a very basic principal of taking other’s emotions into account, treating others the way we want to be treated.  No one wants to feel insufficient, but I think sometimes we can act in very insensitive ways that leave a wake of destruction behind us.

The bonds created under the umbrella of pain and struggles are near unbreakable.  When I act in a way that lets somebody understand that I acknowledge their existence, that I am hear to exist with them, not above them–these are the bonds that make a community.

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Community, T'Shuvah, Uncategorized