Beit T'Shuvah 4 stars
Run by a charismatic rabbi and his social-worker wife, this affordable Los Angeles rehab tutors its residents in both Judaism and recovery. But even the goyim come away pretty happy.
Insider Review on LA Drug Rehab Review
If you merged A&E's Intervention with Fiddler on the Roof and added a sprinkle of Fame, you might come up with Beit T’Shuvah, the quirky but much-beloved Jewish-oriented Los Angeles drug rehab facility that many alumni praise as "the promised land." Located on Venice Boulevard on the border of South and Central LA, in an “iffy” neighborhood, Beit T’Shuvah is a far cry from nearby Promises. Its "shabby but clean" campus consists of two main buildings and “a sterile garden devoid of vegetation". The place is ruled by charismatic ex-convict turned rabbi, Mark Borowitz, and his formidable social worker wife, Harriet Rossetto, who started the rehab in 1984. (Borowitz, a former addict and convicted felon was one of her first clients.)
Roughly 70% of Beit T'Shuvah residents are Jewish, but just like on JDate, you don’t have to be a believer to get in. "When I applied I told them I was Jewish because I thought that would help me get admitted," recalls a non-Jewish former heroin addict. "After two weeks, I came clean to the rabbi and he couldn’t have been cooler about it.” While Torah study is mandatory for all clients, gentile graduates see some value in this and report no feelings of marginalization. "You show respect and go to the services," explains one, "but my spiritual advisor in no way tried to push Judaism on me."
Beit T’Shuvah operates on a multi-level system: newcomers start at Level One and gain privileges as they ascend, finally going as as far as the "independent living" floor, which features modestly-appointed apartments with private rooms. "It’s more like checking into a community than joining a rehab," explains one graduate. Many clients stay here for six months or longer, some for over a year.
Most rooms are doubles, but if space is tight, men may spend their first couple of weeks in a dorm with up to five others. The rooms are simple and barely furnished—just a bed, desk and closet—and not everyone is house-proud. While elected residents assign chores to newcomers, “the place can get pretty dirty at times,” admits one recent grad. But by most accounts the food is “really good, especially for an institution.” Breakfast includes eggs, pastries and fruit, while dinner is often themed, with Mexican and Chinese nights. Full-strength coffee and plentiful snacks are available for most of the day.
The level of liberty at Beit T’Shuvah is legend. "You don’t get barked at or harangued like at other places," says one former resident. "TVs are allowed in some rooms, and you might even be allowed to use your lap-top after a couple of months." You can also "get a visit on your first day," says a grad. Unlike at most rehabs, hook-ups between clients are often overlooked. "They realize that people fall into relationships, especially at a place like this," explains an alum. "It’s not frowned on if you’ve been there a while." Unapproved couples busted in the act tend to be "placed on non-contact for a while—meaning they have to keep their physical distance." But relationships between "suitable" partners can be formally approved following a meeting with the Rabbi. In fact, several former Beit T’Shuvah couples are now married with kids.
Treatment at the Los Angeles drug rehab facility merges Torah-based teachings with cognitive behavioral therapy and traditional 12-step approaches. Every resident is assigned a spiritual advisor, a therapist and a counselor to match these strands. "You always have three people to go to when you have a problem," says a former resident (an experience another alum admits "can get a little chaotic"). Daily group therapy sessions are enhanced by a curriculum heavy on art therapy, creative writing and yoga. The rehab’s renowned choir and band rehearse on campus and regularly perform at Beit T’Shuvah’s packed Friday evening Shabbos services. The T’Shuv’s theater troupe ranges even further and its in-house musical, Freedom Song, has played to enthusiastic audiences across the nation. A hip, well-maintained community blog spreads the word.
Most impressively, Beit T’Shuvah adheres to its mission statement of never turning people down for financial reasons. "I paid nothing to go there," reveals a former patient. "When I came in they asked me once what my financial situation was. After I told them that I was flat broke, they never asked me again." Considering that some graduates hail it as "the best place I’ve been to by a mile," Beit T’Shuvah may well be the best value around.
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