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April 12, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 12, 2013 By Andrew Silow-Carroll New Jersey Jewish News Is Nate Silver destroying our ability to argue? When I was a kid, my parents would have what I would call "encyclopedia" arguments. Say, did FDR die on April 12 or April 13? They would marshal personal history ("My cousin's birthday was April 12"), dubi- ous logic ("If I remember our anniversary, howwould I forget a date like Roosevelt's yahrtz- eit?"), and ad hominem attacks ("Oh, you can never admitwhen you're wrong...."). This could go on for an entire evening, while I was thinking, "Just look it up in the World Book, for God's sake." Of course, the point of some arguments is not being. right, but making your case no matter how ludicrous or counter-factual.Alotofclimate change skeptics and gun rights folks have to know that they are defending the indefensible, and yet the challenge is to create a convincing argument out of gossamer--what Colbert calls "truthiness." I don't think my parents cared about nailing down the date of Roosevelt's death, but enjoyed the argu- ment for its own sake. And of course, we were all too lazy to actually walk to the shelf, pull out volume "Q-R," and check the date. Smartphones and tablets have changed that. Who played Officer Levitt on Barney Miller? The iPhone tells me it's Ron Carey. Where did Carmeio An- thony go to college? A Google search on Galaxy coughs up Syracuse. I love this speedy fact-check-. ing, although I used to enjoy getting there without Siri's help. "You remember, he played the chauffeur in Mel Brooks' Hitch- cock movie. What was that called? Right, High Anxiety, He was the 'Got it, got it, I don't got it' guy. Tod something, or Ron. It vas Ron. Ron...Carey!!" So in that sense, modern technology is only a time saver, You could look it up and a sort of joyless one at that. But where Google and Wiki- pedia change our relationship with facts, Silver transforms our relationship with opinion. Silver started out crunching baseball statistics, and then rose to prominence by correctly pre- dicting, on his FiveThirtyEight. corn blog, the outcomes of the last two presidential elec- tions. But he didn't just pick the winner; day by day he analyzed dozens of individual polls, separating the useful data from the noise. Along the way, he subverted the role of media pundits. Columnistswho relied on their gut instincts and expe- rience now found themselves confounded by hard data. As a result, pundits and any- one who likes a good argument began to resent Silver the way liberal arts majors resent engi- neers. Punditry and barroom banter is about the poetry of the campaigntrail, the impression- ismofthe lockerroom, theword onMain Street. By comparison, "data journalism" seemed bloodless, unsentimental, arid deterministic. Once a reporter could cover a rally and note that Candidate X "sounds like a winner" or that Candidate Y is "losing momentum." Silver's blog, manwhile, would weigh the statistical evidence to show that neither conclusion was correct. You saw the Nate Silver Effect on election night, in the now famous exchange between Karl Rove and Fox colleague Megyn Kelly. When Rove refuses to ac- cept the results being reported by Fox's own team of Silverian number-crunchers, Kelly asks him,"Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?" Silver has gone on to apply his methodology to subjects as disparate as choosing a pope, maximizingyour returns at the salad bar, and especially picking winning sports teams. Old-school reporters liked Florida Gulf Coast University's chances in the NCAA tourna- ment because the team had A place to heal broken souls By Gary Rosenblatt addictions--drugs, alcohol, [thestaff]meetyouwhereyou and Children Services in New During a recent inter- view in my office with Mark Borovitz and Harriet Ros- setto, the guiding lights of Beit T'Shuvah: The House of Return, a unique com- munity in Los Angeles that combines spiritual and psy- chotherapeutic approaches to addiction recovery, I became increasingly impressed with their work and their own life stories. But that was just the start. Rossetto, a handsome, forthright woman in her 70s, was a social worker and self- described misfit, adrift and at a low point when she found her calling in the mid-1980s, helping recently released Jewish prisoners find a place to call home and transition back into society. She be- lieved that everyone deserves a chance at redemption. One of those former pris- oners was Borovitz, a big bear of a man whose path had veered from a middle-class Midwest Jewish upbringing to alcoholism, gambling and check fraud that landed him behind bars, twice. Upon his release he came to Beit T'Shuvah, then a small, rundown home Ros- setto had set up in a tough L.A. neighborhood, and be- gan helping out. Over time the two became friends and eventually married. Their mutual passion--helping people recover from addic- tion by convincing them that each of us is flawed yet each of us matters--combined her nurturing qualities and his increasingly intense focus on bringing Jewish wisdom to broken souls. Borovitz was ordained 12 years ago at the University of Judaism, and is now a street- savvy Conservative rabbi, preaching to an expanding community of both norma- tive and troubled men and women. Together, the couple's complementary approaches to spirituality and healing have, observers say, become a remarkable success story. Beit T'Shuvah now has an $8 million campus that houses 145 residents receiv- ing treatment for a variety of food, sexual, etc.--through its version of the 12-step program to recovery. It also has a full-service synagogue with more than 300 people regularly attending Shabbat services; a career-training center; a music program, complete with recording studio; a traveling theater group; two thrift boutiques; and plans to construct and open an adjacent wellness center for the prevention of dependence. But it was only when the thoroughly professional young woman accompany- ing Borovitz and Rossetto to the interview as director of their public relations team asked to speak that I began to understand just how special Beit T'Shuvah is. The woman, Fanya Co- hen, quietly noted: "I am two-and-a-half years sober. I didn't know my place in the world until I came to Beit T'Shuvah." She said she was from "a privileged back- ground" in a Conservative Jewish family in L.A., became "addicted to perfection," and had previously been in several "expensive treatment cen- ters" that each had a strong profit motive. "They would run your credit card first," before therapy, and "tell you that in 28 days you'll be all better." (Beit T'Shuvah is one of the few treatment facilities that does not turn away anyone for inability to pay. Its monthly fee is between $7,500 and $10,000, but its success in fundraising, often from wealthy families in the entertainment and business communities whose children have been helped, allows it to subsidize those who cannot afforl the full fees.) Cohen said she had needed time to understand her problem and herself, and she found it at Beit T'Shuvah, which features individual- ized care, with each resident spending time with a mentor and spiritual counselor, and attending Torah study every day. (About 70 percent of the residents are Jewish.) "It took me a long time to feel safe," she said, "but you can be yourself there and they are. It's real." Borovitz agreed. "Most places want to fit you into a box, but we build the box around you," he said. The fact that Cohen, who was a resident for a year and a half, is now a key member of the professional staff is not unusual at Beit T'Shuvah. More than 80 of the 100 staff members are "graduates of the program," as Rossetto phrases it. They include Yes- haia Blakeney, head spiritual counselor, who attended Beit T'Shuvah and got sober at 21, and Doug Rosen, director of youth services, a young pro- ducer in Beverly Hills until a cocaine habit and arrest for theft landed him in jail. What greater message about empowerment and second chances than making former residents the heart of the professional program? "Community is what heals," says Borovitz. "Juda- ism can only be practiced in connection" with others. He says the line between normal behavior and ad- diction is a thin one. "It's 51-49, and recovery is only a 2 percent shift." He and Rossetto emphasize that Judaism's wisdom is in acknowledgingand accepting imperfection in everyone. They encourage residents to recognize and redirect their weaknesses and commit to doing "the next right thing." Rossetto, who says she comes to her Judaism from a psychological perspective, notes that an increasing number of Beit T'Shuvah residents are 18-to-25-year- olds raised in wealthy homes who are "functioned-for and overindulged" by their parents and have turned to destructive behavior. She also cites an increase in "Ortho- dox boys [sexually] abused in yeshivas" who use drugs to ease their pain. Beit T'Shuvah has also dealt with rabbis with sexual addictions. Rossetto points out that charismatic figures are "particularly susceptible" since "the brighter the per- sona the darker the shadows." According to Rabbi Simkha Weintraub, rabbinic director of the Jewish Board of Family York, "What's so precious and priceless about Beit T'Sht/vah is its ability to integrate a Jewish spiritual dimension" into its progra;m. He said that offering "open-minded Torah study" is "a great gift, and obligation," enabling people to control and manage their lives. "Teshuvah in that sense is returning health that's been lost," he said. Rabbi Ed Feinstein, spiri- .tual leader of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, has been a friend and mento to Borovitz since 1990, when he worked at Camp Ramah and brought Borovitz, then fresh out of prison, to talk to the teens. "He had them transfixed for three hours," the rabbi recalled. "So real. So much energy." Rabbi Feinstein says that "the amazing thing about Harriet and Mark is that they use Jewish wisdom to heal addiction, unlike other Jewish auspices." He describes Beit T'Shuvah as "a remarkable place where you'll find users, pushers and hookers very connected to a Jewish community" that otherwise "has no place for- these people. Many stay connected to Beit T'Shuvah as alumni, after their treatment. "Mark is fearless in tell- ing people the truth about themselves, and Harriet has a tremendous reputation in the therapeutic community," the rabbi said. "For her, tikkun [repairing] is her faith." Rabbi Feinstein said Ros- setto and Borovitz "don't get nearly the respect they deserve in the community--- until someone has a loved one who needs the program." Rossetto said she and Borovitz want people to ap- preciate that Beit T'Shuvah has become more than a re- hab center. "There are many people who are hopeless," she said, "and we offer them an infusion of hope." Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of The New York Jewish Week, from which this article was re- printed by permission. You can email him at Gary@ PAGE 8A "moxie" and "grit" and because everyone loves a good story, in this case the one about Cin- derella. Silver, meanwhile, analyzed all 512 tournament games since 2003, using a model he describes in a 3,000-word blog post. It factors in mul- tiple computer and human rankings, injuries, geography, and "power ratings",-- and calculated FGCU's chances of winning it all at 0.019 percent, or I in 5,180. Lacking Silver's mathemati- cal training and statistical creativity, I've found myself suddenly going quiet in the middle of an argument or talk- ing through a column. I have opinions---on the most efficient way to board an airplane, on what kinds of messages are effective in advocating for Israel or increasing synagogue attendance. I like to defend meteorologists against those who turn on them when they get it wrong. But then I re- member Silver and his fellow data heads, and suspect that they could create a model that would trump my hunches with cold, hard facts. As it turns out, Silver is also a fan of meteorologists--and not just because weather forecasts are "much better than they were 10 or 20 years ago." Silver worries that many experts rely too heavily on poorly designed computer models or, converse- ly, value their own subjective judgment much too highly. Modern meteorologists, he blogs, strike a"healthy balance between computer modeling and human judgment." I have some of the latter, and can do none of the former. Luckily the data journalists are leaving a trail, easily acces- sible by smartphone or tablet, of good, useful analysis that even an English major could understand. Andrew Silow-Carroll is editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News. Between columns you can read his writing at the JustASC blog. Letters To The Editor HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to he editor, but they must be typed or printed and include name and phone number We will withhold your name if you so request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730 Or e-mail to Stand strong against Islam Dear Editor: Islam is a religion like no other. It is both political and religious. It aims to take over the whole world. It is already doing that all across Europe and Africa. Islam has no tol- erance for any other religion. In fact, Muslims are killing Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Jainists, Hindus, and all other religions everywhere. Unfor- tunately, very little appears in the press or on T,V about persecution of other religions by Muslims because.many media outlets are owned by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia also funds many colleges across the world and is heavily involved in printing textbooks, all lauditory of Islam. There is no appeasing Islam. According to the Koran, Muslims can lie to non-Muslims with impunity in  order to further their goal of taking over every country. Most of us in the western world, especially those 6f us with Jewish values, believe you can be nice to Muslims and they will be nice to you. That doesn't work, and I am amazed at the naivity of so many Jews who want to appease Muslims and think it would help them and Israel. Nothing helps except standing strong and sticking to our ideas and values. Also, many people are afraid to stand up and tell the truth about Islam. Everyone knows and may be friendly with some Muslims who are nice. In English, many Muslim leaders say the right thing. In Arabic, the story is very different. There is information on the Internet and there are groups who are trying to inform everyone of the dangerous events happening across the world because of Islam. I hope all of us will become informed before it is too late. Sandi Solomon, Casselberry Dry Bones