The Holy Thief: A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light

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Mark Borovitz was a mobster, gangster, con man, gambler, thief, and a drunk. He's seen it all. In this inspiring memoir, he takes you on a journey from the streets to discovering his soul in a prison cell.

When Mark was fourteen, his father died and his world came crashing down. He stole, gambled, and drank, beginning a twenty-year life of crime, all the while trying to be the good son, the good brother, the good boy, but his life only spun ...

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Overview

Mark Borovitz was a mobster, gangster, con man, gambler, thief, and a drunk. He's seen it all. In this inspiring memoir, he takes you on a journey from the streets to discovering his soul in a prison cell.

When Mark was fourteen, his father died and his world came crashing down. He stole, gambled, and drank, beginning a twenty-year life of crime, all the while trying to be the good son, the good brother, the good boy, but his life only spun more out of control until the mob put a hit out on him.

After his release from prison, the drinking and thieving continued until, at the edge of oblivion, he experienced a moment of true divine intervention, a startling revelation that saved his life.

Mark Borovitz proved that you can change your life -- profoundly. He is now the rabbi at Beit T'Shuvah in Los Angeles, the House of Return, a rehabilitation facility for addicts of all kinds.

The Holy Thief is the remarkable memoir of an amazing man. It is a true-life gangster story, a passionate love story, and a case of study in redemption. Regardless of your faith, you will find his story tragic, funny, uplifting, and inspirational.

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Editorial Reviews

Rabbi - Harold Kushner
"You will want to read this fascinating book by America’s most extraordinary rabbi."
Rabbi Harold Kushner
“You will want to read this fascinating book by America’s most extraordinary rabbi.”
Publishers Weekly
Borovitz started with petty thievery-baseball cards, candy, marbles-at age eight. By 14, shortly after the death of his father, he became a middleman, and at 25, he beat two middle-aged men at their own scam. Through most of this he maintained a second life as a nice Jewish boy who went to shul, said kaddish every day for a year for his father, looked out for his sister and turned over much of his ill-gotten gains to his mother to support the family. The scams got bigger, the trail got hotter and eventually he was caught. It took two stints in jail for him to learn that crime doesn't pay, but Borovitz attacked his reformation with the same zeal he once applied to intricate cons. His decision to become a rabbi at age 50 seems nothing less than natural. Borovitz is a storyteller at heart, so it's easy to see how he conned so many for so much. Just as natural is his commitment, with his wife, to Beit T'Shuvah, House of Return, a place for souls lost to addiction and themselves. Heart-wrenching but hilarious, raw but refreshing, this everyman tale reminds us that even nice Jewish boys can go bad, but they can also be redeemed. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Rabbi Borovitz manages an addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. Devoted to helping those most troubled souls of society, he also knows those troubles firsthand. A career thief and con man, he did not begin to change until his second term in prison, where association with the prison rabbi led him toward a meaningful life. When released, he began work at a community center, where he recognized that he was an alcoholic and that his marriage was over. After divorcing, he married a woman who now works with him at the center. Together, they evolved an organization that successfully treats those with the most serious addictions. Borovitz's philosophy is "that every life is worth fighting for. Every soul can heal." The text is based on interviews with Borowitz and people who know him, conducted and put into narrative form by Eisenstock. Unfortunately, it ends without many details of the rabbi's more recent life. Readers are left with an engaging story of redemption, though one that has been told many times before. Recommended for public libraries. Jerry Shuttle, East Tennessee State Univ. Lib., Johnson City Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060563806
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/29/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Mark Borovitz is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beit T'Shuvah in Los Angeles.

Alan Eisenstock is the author of Ten on Sunday: The Secret Life of Men, Sports Talk: A Journey Inside the World of Sports Talk Radio, and Inside the Meat Grinder. In a career spanning twenty-five years, he has written movies, plays, magazine articles, and television shows. He lives in California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi
My Prayer xiii
1. The End 1
2. Home 9
3. The Beginning 34
4. Checks, No Balances 60
5. Hollywood Hustle 75
6. The First Time 104
7. The Last Time 121
8. Return 156
9. God Hustle 168
10. Rabbi Mark 196
11. Prophet 214
Afterword 223
Acknowledgments 224
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First Chapter

The Holy Thief
A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light

Chapter One

The End

Tuesday, May 16, 2000.

A typical L.A. morning. Hazy brown sunshine, breezeless, a chill in the air. The freeways are frantic. Shimmering four lanes of bumper cars.

I'm up, as usual, at 4:30 A.M.

Eyes slammed shut, I murmur my morning prayers. I shower, dress, hit my local Starbucks, swig back-to-back-to- back Rabbi Red-Eyes (one shot decaf, two shots decaf espresso), and flip through the paper at a table outside. I pop into the office by 5:15, surf through my e-mails, outline this week's Torah portion. At seven I strut into the sanctuary for my weekly men's Torah study. By eight I'm back in the office working the phones.

I argue with a D.A. in Kansas, plead with a judge in Kentucky, deal with a drug addict in North Hollywood. At eleven I return to the sanctuary to facilitate a weekly group on relationships.

I break up the group at noon, graze through a chicken salad, settle into the conference room at twelve-thirty for our weekly staff meeting. By two, I'm at my desk banging more phone calls.

This day, at two-thirty, Harriet pokes her head in. She wears a charcoal-gray Donna Karan suit with subtle pinstripes and a smile that could light a night game.

"Mark," she says, "it's time."

She winks and goes. I grope under the mountain range of papers on my desk for my wallet. My intercom blinks. I pick up the phone. My secretary, Susan, announces that Lois, the mother of one of our residents, is on the line.

"Put her through," I say.

My chair groans as I lean back. I tuck a Stimudent into the corner of my mouth and click Solitaire onto my sleek flat computer monitor. I concentrate better when I doodle and Solitaire's my way of doodling.

Lois speaks slowly, solemnly. Her son has been living at Beit T'Shuvah for less than two weeks and is threatening to leave. If he does, he will violate his court order and will likely wind up in jail.

I don't see the kid bolting. He seems comfortable here, more so than in the parking structure where we found him, eating his dinner out of a garbage can. Amazing. This is a Beverly Hills family, entertainment business, big money. The dad produced a couple of movies you've seen, one of which was nominated for an Academy Award. Meanwhile their seventeen-year-old is popping uppers, drinking a six-pack of beer a day, financing his habit by hustling gay men on Hollywood Boulevard. One night the kid packed up and moved out of his six-thousand-square-foot mansion and into a doorway downtown.

"I'm so afraid he's going to leave," Lois says. "I don't know what to do."

"I know you're worried," I say. "I am, too."

"You are?" Her voice rises, veers toward panic.

"Yes." I scratch my forehead. "Lois, your son is an addict. With addicts there is only one thing you know absolutely and that is that you never know." I hold. "So I always worry. I'm always on my guard. And I don't feel that in your son's case, his main issue is leaving the facility. I think he feels secure here and that he wants to try. That's not to say we won't keep our eyes open. You know what I mean?"

Lois's breath whistles through the receiver. On my computer screen, all four aces line up at attention. I roll my mouse forward.

"Okay," Lois says. "Okay." Another rush of breath. "I feel better. I always feel better when I talk to you. Jesus, this is hard."

"You know it," I say. "And it's gonna get harder."

Lois swallows. "You don't mind if I call you when I get like this? When I get scared?"

"You have to call me. And I have to call you. Always. Constantly. Now that you have him back, you cannot let him go. So we'll be calling each other. And I will be talking to your son. Lois, he's here because he wants to be here. He wants to change."

"Thank you, Rabbi." A small laugh. "Not yet, right?"

"A few more hours. Then it's official."

"Well, early congratulations."

"Thank you. And Lois ... "

"Yes?"

"Hang in there with him."

"I will."

"Remember," I say, "he is your son."

A click. Her throat? The phone? The line hums. I look up. Harriet appears in the doorway. She taps her watch. "Mark, we gotta go."

I stand, stretch, snag my coat from the hanger on the inside of my office door. I grin at Harriet like a game show host. "Yes, dear."

I drive. I pull out of our parking lot, turn right onto Venice, and stop at a red light at Robertson. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel and lower my window. I crane my neck into the air and for the first time today, I allow myself a moment.

One moment. One memory. A memory of another moment fourteen years ago ...

Abus we called the Gray Goose, methodical, rickety, grinds up a back road to Chino State Prison, steaming into the barren brown horizon, the ground fluttering dreamlike outside the window.

This is a bus of fools -- silent, stoical, and severe men, men who have stolen, conned, or killed.

I am one.

The driver is a ghost. The silence cloaks all of us like a mist. I have taken this ride before, driven by other ghosts. Today, though, I know everything is different, everything has changed. I have been shaken into an otherworldly state of calm -- of reverence -- by a massive unseen force. A force that has spoken in a slow, deliberate Voice, delivering to me one simple and final truth: I will never take this ride again.

Because if I do, I will die.

The Holy Thief
A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light
. Copyright © by Mark Borovitz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2004

    Couldn't put it down

    I loved this book.It got me on the very first page and I couldn't put it down. It made me laugh,it made me cry. What more can you ask.It is a joy to read and inspirational.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2004

    Holy Thief: A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light

    I have to read a lot of books for my job, so I got to read an advanced copy of this one. It was such a joy to read and never felt like 'work' for a moment. When it was over...I wished there were more. What an inspiring and triumphant story. And so well told.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2004

    Page turner and deeply moving journey

    Funny, heart-breaking and, ultimately uplifting journey of the soul and spirit.At once, an exciting and realistic gangster tale,as well as one of profound discovery. It will make you laugh and cry, and could change your life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2004

    Holy Thief: A Con Man's Journey from Darkness to Light

    As a film producer, I was able to see an advance copy of this book. This was a total joy to read and didn't feel like 'work' for one moment. It is an inspiring story and is extremely well told...as only the person experiencing this journey could tell it. I highly recommend this wonderful book.

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