This self-published book offers the compelling story of Beit T’Shuvah, a treatment facility in Los Angeles. Founder Harriett Rossetto’s work in this field began when she answered an advertisement in the classifieds seeking a social worker to visit Jews in prison. Troubled that her clients continually relapsed into criminal behavior, she started a halfway house, or, in her words: “a Jewish home, based on love and learning, where … [t]hey could make t’shuvah: admit their wrongdoing, make amends and restitution, and plan how not to re-offend, to make different choices.” Rossetto’s skillful narrative emphasizes the personal stories of her clients, including those who were there from the beginning and others who have struggled with addiction more recently, in order to explain the mission and growth of this unique Jewish community over the years.
But Sacred Housekeeping is not only about the work. Rossetto’s narrative also explores how Beit T’shuvah’s creation influenced her individual journey. The integration of this personal story — including Rossetto’s marriage to Rabbi Mark Borovitz — into the story of the organization is particularly meaningful because it demonstrates the practical realities of living life’s complexities and connections. Although a reader might dispute the wisdom of several of Rossetto’s choices, the author’s insights are interesting and thought-provoking, and her questions provide a real opportunity for spiritual growth.
As would be expected in an autobiography, the Jewish and spiritual elements of this book are based in the author’s experiences. For example, Rossetto reflects on the many Jewish holidays that she has celebrated with friends and clients at Beit T’Shuvah. She also recounts teachings from a broad range of traditional Jewish sources, connecting their lessons to her important work. The book does not contain comprehensive descriptions of Jewish perspectives on addiction; rather, it offers a spiritual look at the practical realities of establishing and running a treatment facility. While readers may find the writing somewhat unpolished and unorganized, such honest words give a raw character to the work that reflects strength and purpose. Afterword, foreword, preface.