Meet Our Team

Staff

Shira Berkovits, Esq., Ph.D.

President and Chief Executive Officer

Shira is President and CEO of Sacred Spaces. A behavioral psychologist with a research background in creating large scale organizational change, and an attorney specialized in criminal law, Shira has spent years studying the intersection of psychology and law as related to sexual offending in faith communities. Bringing a uniquely Jewish lens, Shira partners with Jewish leaders to build healthy and accountable institutions, whose culture and daily operations foster sacredness and reduce the risk of harassment, abuse, and other forms of interpersonal harm. In her role as CEO of Sacred Spaces, she has worked with Jewish communities across five continents to prevent, handle, and heal from institutional abuse. Her publications on abusive institutional practices have contributed to the end of solitary confinement for juveniles at Rikers Island, were immediate best seller on Amazon, and are regularly cited as seminal work in the Jewish abuse prevention field. Selected as an inaugural Wexner Field Fellow and named to The Jewish Week’s 2017 36 Under 36 for her pioneering work on abuse prevention, Shira sits on the board of the Academy on Violence and Abuse and is a member of the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation.

Judith Belasco

Executive Vice President

Judith Belasco is the Executive Vice President at Sacred Spaces. She works to strategically scale and manage Sacred Spaces byaligning mission and vision with day-to-day operations. She manages and strengthens programs, operations, development, marketing, communications, and finance.  Prior to joining Sacred Spaces, she was the Executive Vice President at Hazon as the organization moved from a start-up phase to become a flourishing organization. Judith specifically oversaw and directed all of Hazon’s programs, operations, development, marketing, communications, and finance. During her twelve year tenure at Hazon, she was also the Acting CEO and Chief Program Officer. Judith holds a Bachelors degree in Urban Studies from Vassar College and a Masters of Science in Nutrition and Public Health from Columbia University. She is part of the Wexner Field Fellowship and she is currently a JPro WellAdvised Coach.

Rena Berger

Director of Finance and Administration

Rena Berger is the Director of Finance and Administration at Sacred Spaces. She is responsible for directing and managing finances, operations, human resources, and administration to support Sacred Spaces short- and long-term strategic goals. Rena helped found Torah Day School of Seattle, a non-profit elementary school in Seattle. As the TDS Director of Operations, she was responsible for overseeing the school’s budget, the execution of all grants and donor funds, and Human Resources functions. Prior to her career at TDS, Rena worked at the University of Washington and at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. Rena has an MBA in Non Profit Management from Touro University; an MEd in Policy Planning and Administration in Higher Education from Boston University, and a BSc in Biology, Psychology, and History from the University of Toronto. Rena plays an active role in the Seattle Jewish community, serving as the chair of the Seattle Mikvah Association, as mashgiach for Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath shul, and is an active member of the Seattle Chesed Committee.

Lauren J. Litton, Esq.

Vice President of Programs

Lauren provides leadership and strategic guidance on the development and implementation of innovative and comprehensive programs, trainings, and resources. She manages a high performing team of Sacred Spaces staff and consultants in order to deliver effective case consultations and impactful programming. Guided by a commitment to human rights and social justice, Lauren has centered her work on promoting safety, well-being, and equity. She operated a consulting firm with specialized focus on domestic and sexual violence, civil and criminal justice reform, child welfare and juvenile justice, racial equity, and youth engagement. Working with the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and a multitude of national organizations, Lauren has tremendous experience managing large-scale, multi-system change initiatives. Previously, Lauren also worked as a program manager at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, managed a legal services program for survivors of domestic violence and their children, and served as a county prosecutor. She has been admitted to practice law in Ohio and Arizona, has authored numerous publications, and designed national conferences. Lauren received her undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University and a juris doctorate from Case Western Reserve University.

Danielle Pitkoff

Program Manager

As Program Manager at Sacred Spaces, Danielle is a core member of our case consulting team, advising Jewish organizations on best practices in preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault. She is coordinating Aleinu: Safeguarding Our Children, an upcoming campaign that will provide thousands of Jewish youth-serving organizations with resources and guidance in protecting the children in their care. As the former co-Director of Johns Hopkins University’s Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU), Danielle brings a wealth of experience in supporting survivors, combating rape culture, and guiding universities in preventing and responding to sexual assault on campus. At SARU, Danielle trained staff and student organizations, led campaigns for policy reform, worked a 24-hour crisis hotline, developed workshops for survivor healing and support, and partnered with government agencies to improve access to and quality of resources for victims. Previously, Danielle interned at the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault and was a Women, Gender, and Sexuality Research Fellow at Hopkins. Selected to be part of this year’s Jewish Week 36 Under 36 for her continuous work supporting survivors, she lectures on consent education and policy development for Jewish institutions across North America.

Photo by Aliza Abolafia

Rebecca Millner

Program Manager

Rebecca Millner is a Program Manager at Sacred Spaces, providing support for the research, development, and implementation of programming, training and resources. Prior to joining Sacred Spaces, Rebecca worked at the Institute for Health and Recovery (IHR) as a trainer and community-based interventionist, focused on addressing the needs of women and families, specifically addressing substance-use recovery, perinatal women’s health and the integration of trauma-informed models of care. Rebecca has also served as a Behavioral Health Clinician at Lahey Health Behavioral Services, addressing trauma in children and families in both a residential and community-based capacity. Through this work, Rebecca has trained numerous behavioral health agencies on engaging in systemic trauma-informed care. Rebecca holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the Hadassah-Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Jerusalem.

Consultants and Policy Specialists

The mission of Sacred Spaces is no less than to bring every Jewish institution in line with best practice standards in preventing and responding to abuse. We cannot do this alone. Therefore, we have partnered Jewish social service agencies, already doing invaluable work in their communities, as well as the following policy specialists and trainers, to empower institutions with the education and tools necessary to protect their constituents.

 

Hon. Robert Hettleman

Robert has over twenty years of experience as a prosecutor and a judge in the areas of child abuse, child welfare, domestic violence, and sex crimes. He was the Chief of the Child Abuse Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where he investigated and prosecuted cases of physical and sexual abuse of children, including homicides, cybercrimes, and trafficking. He became a New York State Family Court Judge in 2014, presiding over cases where child protection authorities alleged abuse and neglect of children. Robert has worked closely with law enforcement, medical and mental health providers, child welfare and foster care organizations, and the courts to coordinate and improve child abuse prevention, holistic help and support for victims and their families, and the way courts and government deal with child abuse and neglect.

As part of his work, Robert helped found and oversee the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center, where children are seen holistically and by experts in the field in order to provide proper evaluation, treatment, support, and investigation. He has worked closely with schools, religious organizations, hospitals, and other companies to investigate allegations, develop educational and awareness programs for employees and communities, and create child abuse prevention protocols.

For many years, Robert has taught law school courses on child abuse, domestic violence, the judicial process, and criminal justice at the Benjamin Cardozo Law School in New York. He has lectured and trained in these areas around the US, in Cuba, Turkey and Israel.

Hadar Schwartz, Ph.D.

Hadar Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist with specialized training working with children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced relational trauma, including physical and sexual abuse. Hadar conducted trauma-focused individual, family, and group psychotherapy with youth victims of abuse and neglect and their non-offending parents at Jacobi Medical Center’s Family Advocacy Center and has run groups for adult survivors of child sexual abuse and survivors of campus sexual assault. In addition to her work as a therapist, Hadar has conducted research on sexual violence and sex trafficking and has published articles and presented at conferences on this topic. Hadar earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center, where she lectured on The Psychology of Women, and completed her postdoctoral training at Columbia’s University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. Hadar works in private practice in Riverdale and Manhattan and provides psychotherapy to individuals in a nursing home. She also consults with schools and universities on issues of sexual assault and abuse. Over the past year Hadar has been working with Sacred Spaces to develop model policies on preventing and responding to elder abuse in Jewish communal institutions.

Gillian Steinberg, Ph.D.

Writing Consultant

Gillian Steinberg is a writing consultant for Sacred Spaces, focusing on clarity and readability, tone, and consistency of diction and style. Because Sacred Spaces’ work relies on careful, sensitive use of language, Gillian helps to ensure that all of Sacred Spaces’ written materials are accessible, precise, and clear. Gillian is also a full-time English teacher at SAR High School in Riverdale, the Bronx, and serves as a writing coach for adults working on academic or other professional writing. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Delaware and is the author of Philip Larkin and His Audiences (Palgrave Macmillan 2010) and Thomas Hardy: the Poems (Palgrave Macmillan 2013) as well as numerous articles and book chapters on literature and pedagogy.

Victor Vieth, J.D.

Victor is the Director of Education and Research for the Zero Abuse Project. He is also the president of the Academy on Violence and Abuse and Founder of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. He previously served as executive director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse. Victor has trained thousands of child protection professionals from all 50 states, two U.S. Territories and 17 countries on numerous topics pertaining to child abuse investigation, prosecution, and prevention. He has been instrumental in implementing 22 state and international forensic interview training programs and dozens of undergraduate and graduate programs on child maltreatment. Victor gained national recognition for his work addressing child abuse in small communities as a prosecutor in rural Minnesota. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Pro Humanitate Award for Child Advocacy from the North American Child Resource Center for Child Welfare and the Heritage Service Award from the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence. Victor has published numerous peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters, books and other writings pertaining to child abuse and neglect. Victor has consulted with public policy makers throughout the country and has testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee on reforming child protection education. He holds degrees from Winona State University, Hamline University School of Law, and Wartburg Theological Seminary.