Some of you may know Jillian Coventry as the Marathon and Alumni Coordinator. Some of you may know her as the Congregation Coordinator. Some of you may know her as the assistant to the senior rabbi. You would all be right. This multi-talented, multi-titled woman has a long history of being in and out of treatment centers but finally found her calling here at Beit T’Shuvah. Luckily for us, her calling is doing a million things at once.
Despite growing up in a nice neighborhood on Long Island, Jillian always felt like something was missing. “I had a really good life,” she says. “I just wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I never felt like I was good enough. Then I found drugs and alcohol and it didn’t make me good enough… but I didn’t care.” A classic Beit T’Shuvah story: a kindhearted Jewish girl feels unworthy and finds her validation in heroin and crack—a tale as old as time. By the age of 14, she’d checked into her first outpatient treatment center. The next half of her life was a revolving door of treatment efforts. “I have been to treatment centers in most of the states on the east coast,” she says. After many years of battling, Jillian finally found her way to Beit T’Shuvah.
After having a family friend go through the program, Jillian’s mom called and suggested Jillian come to Beit T’Shuvah. At the time, she was struggling with her addiction in Florida and refused to fly to California to attend a long-term Jewish treatment center. Like many residents before her, the prospect of any sort of long-term treatment center seemed daunting, but she finally gave in and decided to do a phone assessment. When she was told there was a six-week waiting list, she was thrilled. It gave her an excuse to not come here at all. As those weeks wore thin, she realized she needed to make a change and chose to fly out and come to Beit T’Shuvah. “I wouldn’t quite say I was desperate at that point, but I knew I was tired of hurting my family,” she says.
Jillian lived in the house for a year, becoming a fully immersed member of the community. Even before she had thirty days in the house, she decided to join the Running For Recovery marathon team. “I was new to California. I was new to Beit T’Shuvah. I was not a runner, but I decided to run the marathon to give back and become a part of the community. Not only could I run the marathon, make friends, and be accountable, but I could give back,” she says. “Having my fundraising page and having not only friends and family, but donors I did not know donating to my page made me feel really special. It made me feel like I was important and that I was part of the community.”A few months into her stay, she started an internship with development. When there was no position to hire her, she got an outside job. Very quickly, a position opened up on the temple and EBI side of Beit T’Shuvah and she was hired here. Soon after that, she was offered a position in development.
Although she may radiate positive energy like the sun, she has had just as many struggles as the rest of us have. While working at Beit T’Shuvah, she relapsed and went to a thirty-day treatment center. Upon exiting that program, she was welcomed back at her job and into the community she holds so dear. “I remember walking down Venice and then walking up the steps. In my head, the door was so heavy. I don’t know why I was so scared—the Beit T’Shuvah community has done nothing but embrace me. There was still this fear of being judged or people thinking differently of me. I guess looking back, it’s that feeling of not being good enough from when I was a kid,” she says.
Nowadays, it is hard to find a job that Jillian doesn’t do. Wrangling residents for the marathon and booking the hotel the night before the big run? Jillian’s on it. Coordinating all of the temple events, helping the senior rabbi manage his schedule? Jillian’s on it. Jillian is one of the busiest people on the Beit T’Shuvah campus, but this has never stopped her glowing smile from brightening the day of every resident she comes in contact with. Thanks to the difficult road that got her here, she has become an even stronger and more powerful member of this community.
Even though Jillian is constantly running around putting out fires all over the campus, at her core she is just like any of us. With a humble smirk she says, “I am not just in development. I am not just the marathon coordinator. I am a person in recovery.”
If you would like to donate to the Beit T’Shuvah Running For Recovery marathon team go to: