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Faith leaders combat divisive messages through Yom Kippur services

September 22, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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On the eve of the most solemn day of the Jewish year, leaders of Jewish and Christian faiths in Los Angeles will gather to call attention to what they consider a “state of moral emergency,” affecting society's treatment of the addicted and other marginalized groups.

Rabbi Mark Borovitz of the nonprofit addiction treatment and education center Beit T'Shuvah has asked Father Greg Boyle and the Rev. Mark Whitlock, Jr., to join him at events this evening and during Yom Kippur on Wednesday, respectively. Boyle, who works with gang members through his organization Homeboy Industries, will join Borovitz to discuss the importance of kinship, and Whitlock, of the COR AME Church of Orange County, will accompany Borovitz to talk about redemption and forgiveness during Yom Kippur services.

Borovitz says the rhetoric that dominates today's headlines demonstrates why faith communities need to work toward uniting people. “You can tell by the discourse in the world, political and otherwise,” he says. “We're not appreciating or honoring people as human beings. We're making camps—us and them.”

He sees this playing out constantly in references to people with addictions as “those people.” He also hears people telling him, “You do such wonderful work, for those poor people.” But he says, contrary to this attitude, “We're all addicts in a way. We're all separated from God.”

Yom Kippur creates the ideal timing for the activities Borovitz has organized because it is about atoning for past sins and preparing for a more purposeful year ahead, he says. Kinship is inextricably tied to this, as the Hebrew word “ga'al” translates to both “redeem” and “act as a kinsman,” Borovitz says.

Borovitz calls his two colleagues “spiritual giants,” and says, “I asked both of them to do this with me because my community and all communities need to get back to the sacred.”

He adds, “When we see every human being as unique, and that everyone has something to offer, all of a sudden it's, 'Now, what can we learn together?'”

The Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning services, to be held at the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, will be live streamed on the Beit T'Shuvah website.