Sacred House­keep­ing: A Spir­i­tu­al Memoir

Har­ri­et Ros­set­to; Ree­va Hunter Man­del­baum, ed.
  • Review
By – December 11, 2013

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.

Read Har­ri­et Ros­set­to’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

You Don’t Have to Be an Addict to Be in Recovery

Is Revenge Justice?

Rachel Sara Rosen­thal is an envi­ron­men­tal attor­ney in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Orig­i­nal­ly from Greens­boro, North Car­oli­na, she grad­u­at­ed from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty in 2003 and Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in 2006.

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