Mark Borovitz has been on both sides of the ethical divide. The brother of Rabbi Neal Borovitz of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge, he turned from criminal ways – he served time on fraud charges – and ultimately became a rabbi.
“As Jews we put rabbis up as perfect people, but we’re not,” he said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he is the religious leader of Beit T’Shuvah, a residential addiction rehabilitation center. “We have all the trouble everybody else has, plus we signed up to be leaders,” he said.
Trying to fathom what makes a rabbi, for example, cross the line into crime, he suggested it’s the false notion that it’s permissible to cheat in the secular world. But that, he said, violates the Torah, which says there is one law for us all. “To do something illegal and immoral is a desecration,” he said.
“We’re all made of many parts,” good and bad, he said, and doubtless the accused rabbis did a lot of good in their lives, he said. “You can’t throw that away,” he continued. “Even in those years I helped people,” he said, recalling his time in the criminal world.
He spoke of the question of image. “Whenever a Jew does something bad, we all feel responsible, we all take a hit,” he said. “It feeds the anti-Semitic rants.”
“I do teshuvah for a lot of things in my life,” he said. “We’re not perfect, we’re not meant to be perfect,” he said. “The lesson for all of us is we have to be watchful.”