L’Hayyim: Living with Issues of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Sunday, February 26th 2017 at 1:30pm 


Please join us for an afternoon of learning with religious leaders about Jewish communal resources for addressing addiction and recovery.  Rabbi Mark Borovitz, founder of the residential treatment center and congregation Beit T’shuvah, and Rabbi Ellie Shemtov, founder of the Jewish recovery program Beit Yosef, will each present on their understanding of how the Jewish community can best address addiction. There will also be opportunity for discussing specific aspects of Jewish communal needs around this topic.

$18 in Advance

$25 at the Door

Space is limited, register now




Sunday Schedule:   

L’hayyim: Practical Jewish Approaches to Substance Abuse and Addiction

1:30PM – Welcome and Introduction Dr. Ora Horn Prouser and Rabbi Jill Hammer

1:45PM –  T’Shuvah: Judaism’s Path to Recovery Rabbi Mark Borovitz (Beit T’shuvah)

2:55PM –  The House of Joseph, Joseph in my House: A Personal Reflection on Addiction in the Jewish Community Rabbi Ellie Shemtov (Beit Yosef)

Break Time to mingle, snack & purchase books

4:00PM – Break-Out Groups

1. Personal Experience –  Cantor Michael Kasper (Classroom 3)

2. Synagogue Settings –  Rabbi Jeff Hoffman (Beit Midrash)

3. Pastoral Care –  Rabbi Irwin Huberman (Classroom 2)

4:45PM – Closing Remarks


Please print and share with your community!


Presenter Bios

rabbimarkborovitzbiobigRabbi Mark Borovitz

Officially ordained in 2000 at the University of Judaism with a Master’s in Rabbinic Literature, Rabbi Mark Borovitz combined his knowledge of Torah and street smarts to shape his calling: helping recovering addicts find their way in the world. Spiritual Leader, Author, Senior Rabbi, ex-con, recovering alcoholic, and overall anomaly, he is able to reach both the addict and the congregant, and de-stigmatize this life threatening disease. After being released from prison in 1988 he began his work at Beit T’Shuvah, a nonprofit, non-sectarian, Jewish addiction treatment center and synagogue community in Los Angeles. Over the past twenty-eight years, he has co-created one of the most exceptional approaches to addiction treatment and criminal rehabilitation and reintegration in the world.

Currently, as the Senior Rabbi and the Co-Director of the Elaine Breslow Institute at Beit T’Shuvah, Rabbi Mark’s leadership is unparalleled. Community members, addicts, educators, dignitaries, and executives all seek his wisdom; working with people, he is living proof that change is possible; when speaking to the congregant, he stands for the hope that every man has a higher purpose. As the organization has grown, Rabbi Mark’s unique take on addiction treatment has solidified him as an expert and visionary in the field. His biography, The Holy Thief: A Conman’s Journey from Darkness to Light (Harper Collins), tells the story of his life from hopelessness to redemption, for which the rights were recently optioned. He also recently released his newest book, Finding Recovery and Yourself in Torah: A Daily Spiritual Path to Wholeness (Jewish Lights Publishing).

Rabbi Mark has been featured in articles in the Los Angeles Times, Moment Magazine, The Jewish Journal, The Wall Street Journal and newspapers across the world, including Israel’s largest publication, Haaretz Daily Newspaper. In early 2004, Rabbi Mark was one of seven people invited to a round table discussion with President George W. Bush about faith and recovery. The Rabbi was also mentioned in President Bush’s speech before the first conference on Faith-Based Initiatives. He has been the featured speaker at many seminars and lectures discussing spirituality and recovery, including CASA at Columbia University and Spirituality Day at Northwestern University, and more recently, spoke alongside Susannah Heschel at B’nai Jeshurun in New York City. Rabbi Mark is also placed on the faculty of the Spirituality Mind Body Summer Institute for Teachers College at Columbia University. Rabbi Mark Borovitz’s tireless efforts have been the driving force behind not only the robust and growing movement that is Beit T’Shuvah, but also re-defining the recovery model and helping all people, both in recovery and not, find their path to wholeness.


ShemtovRabbi Ellie Shemtov

As the ex-wife of an alcoholic who passed away in 2010, Rabbi Ellie Shemtov has made a commitment to raising awareness about the disease of addiction in the Jewish community.  Her rabbinical school thesis entitled, “Beit Yosef: a Sacred Space for Healing from the disease of Addiction,” investigated Beit T’Shuvah a residential treatment center and full-service congregation in Los Angeles, as a model of what might be possible on the East Coast.  Established three years ago Beit Yosef became a 501 (C) 3 organization in 2016. 

Ordained by the Academy for Jewish Religion in May 2014, Rabbi Shemtov currently serves as rabbi at Congregation Kol Am in Freehold, NJ.  In December 2016 funded by Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, her congregation hosted a Shabbaton entitled, “The Secret of Substance Abuse in the Jewish Community.”

Rabbi Shemtov studied flute at Ithaca College and received her Bachelor’s degree in Music and Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Before moving to New York to attend AJR, she worked as a film librarian/archivist at a variety of institutions in the Washington, DC area, including the University of Maryland at College Park, the National Archives and Records Administration and as Head of Film Cataloging at the Library of Congress.  Since August 2015 Rabbi Shemtov has been serving as Librarian at the Academy for Jewish Religion.

An early Jewish presence on the Internet, Rabbi Shemtov created and designed the website, Ellie’s Torah Trope Tutor.  A tool for teaching others how to chant Torah, Haftorah, and the Megillot, Rabbi Shemtov’s web page has been a presence on the Internet since 1996.  While there are many other web sites that teach the art of cantillation, Ellie’s Torah Trope Tutor was the first of its kind.

Please contact Rabbi Jill Hammer with any questions.

The Intensive program will continue for Students, Faculty, Staff, Board Members and Alumni with two more days of learning with religious leaders and mental health professionals about addiction and recovery in the Jewish community.  We will be engaging the causes and treatment of addiction, practical Jewish communal resources, textual references, artistic responses, and community sharing.


Click HERE for Monday (2/27) and Tuesday (2/28) Schedule.