Guiding Principles

Prior to launching, Sacred Spaces’ board, staff, and a group of Jewish ethicists worked to develop a set of ethical principles for Sacred Spaces that would guide us in our daily operations and in navigating complex situations. This was the first thing we did, before incorporating or attaining tax-exempt status. We made sure we knew who we were and what we stood for. These Guiding Principles are posted here for all to see as a way of committing publicly to operating ethically and transparently, and allowing the public to hold us accountable. It is also our way of modeling the standards we ask for from the organizations with which we work.

We approach our task with a deep sense of responsibility toward our community, its institutions, and the members in its care. At the center of our actions is the biblical call in Exodus 25:8 to construct a sanctuary: “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם). When we create safe and sacred communal spaces, we invite God’s presence to reside in our midst.

We, the representatives of Sacred Spaces – workers in all capacities and board members –undertake to cultivate a sacred workspace among ourselves, where the standards we seek to disseminate will be practiced and modeled. We commit to treating our colleagues, both those within our own organization as well as our partners in other institutions, with the utmost dignity. The following principles will guide our daily work:

  • We will assist synagogues, schools, summer camps, community centers, and other Jewish institutions in the day-to-day task of protecting their constituents. Although we work together with institutions, our ultimate priority is to protect the individuals in their care.
  • Despite the often-divisive nature of combatting abuse, Sacred Spaces is a fundamentally constructive project that endeavors to unify the Jewish community around the task of promoting safe and healthy institutions. In this spirit, we are not in competition with existing anti-abuse organizations, but rather are partners in protecting the vulnerable.
  • As a cross-denominational association, Sacred Spaces will not determine its organizational partners on the basis of ideological or religious belief.
  • We will not decline to work with an institution on account of perceived mistakes in past handling of abuse, but will rather assess an organization’s current willingness to take the necessary steps toward preventing abuse in the future. However, we will not work with an institution that is currently mishandling an active case.
  • Although we seek to be as inclusive as possible, our work with a particular individual or organization prior to accreditation is not a reflection of our endorsement.
  • We will build into our work external checks to ensure impartiality, especially when a case involves personal acquaintances or public figures. We will work with experts outside of the Jewish community and rely on independent audits, remaining open to constructive criticism and acknowledging that we do not have a monopoly on truth.
  • We will promote transparency and open communication, within our organization and in our work with other organizations and the public.
  • We will bear responsibility for our mistakes and will take the necessary measures to correct them.
  • All public communications by Sacred Spaces representatives on the subject of abuse must be consistent with the tone and philosophy of Sacred Spaces; we will not engage in inflammatory language or in public shaming.
  • When speaking of specific cases, we will refer to alleged victims respectfully and will not publicly question their veracity.

We acknowledge that the power we wield is not our own, but rather the weight of responsibility entrusted to us by our community. Striving towards the ideal God is said to model in Psalms 84:12, we commit ourselves to the solemn task of pursuing “light and protection” (שמש ומגן), promoting transparency within our own organization and, to the best of our abilities, within our communal institutions.