Meet Our Team

Staff

Shira Berkovits, Esq., Ph.D.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Shira is founder and CEO of Sacred Spaces. In this role she has worked with Jewish communities across five continents to prevent, handle, and heal from institutional abuse. Her book, The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide, was released this past summer and was an immediate Amazon bestseller. Shira holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she was an Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellow and an adjunct professor, and a J.D. from Cardozo School of Law, where she was a Monrad Paulson Fellow. She has completed postdoctoral psychology fellowships in child trauma and rehabilitative alternatives to incarceration. Prior to founding Sacred Spaces, Shira worked on criminal justice reform, youth advocacy, and child protection at such nationally acclaimed organizations as the Innocence Project, Center for Court Innovation, and Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. In her work, she has represented battered women and adolescent defendants, mediated legal disputes, and co-authored Rethinking Rikers for the NYC Board of Corrections, which contributed to the end of juvenile solitary confinement at Rikers. Named to The Jewish Week’s 2017 36 Under 36, Shira has been involved in Jewish communal work for over a decade, serving as youth director at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, consulting for synagogue youth departments across the US through the Orthodox Union, participating in the Paideia Paradigm program and AJWS Global Justice Fellowship, and most recently joining Wexner’s inaugural cohort of Field Fellows. She is a proud board member of the Academy on Violence and Abuse, Kol V’ Oz, and Male Survivor.

Ilene Rinn

Chief Operating Officer

Prior to joining Sacred Spaces, Ilene was the Director of Planning and Allocations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh where she worked closely with local agencies to ensure that resources and programs were in place to meet human needs across the community’s spectrum. She was also responsible for the allocation of $22m each year to community priorities, both locally and overseas. Previously, Ilene worked for the New York Public Library, where she was a librarian and a development event planner. She has additional experience working for environmental non-profit organizations including the Nature Conservancy and League of Conservation Voters. Ilene graduated summa cum laude from the Pratt Institute where she received a master’s degree in information and library science. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in history and women’s studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Photo by Joshua Franzos

Sari Steinberg

National Engagement Director

Sari has always been active in the fight against institutional abuse in the Jewish community.  Her background includes experience in legal settings, political advocacy, awareness campaigns, conflict resolution, and educational institutions.  She has been involved in several communities as a lay leader and a professional, including her roles as a regional coordinator, communications specialist, and event planner for organizations such as CAMERA and the Kehillah Fund for Jewish Education.  A longstanding freelance writer, Sari has authored children’s books, co-produced educational videos, and edited Dr. Miriam Adahan’s From Victim to Victor: A Practical Guide for Recognizing Abuse and Discovering Our Spiritual Strengths.  She earned undergraduate degree Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and has engaged in advanced Jewish studies in the Scholars Program at Matan, Communication at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jewish Professional Studies at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, and a variety of subjects in adult education programs at Solomon Schechter Day School and SAR Academy.  Sari enjoys interacting with individuals and the public, as well as working behind the scenes in a supportive role.

Danielle Pitkoff

Program Coordinator

As Program Coordinator at Sacred Spaces, Danielle is a core member of our consulting team, advising Jewish organizations on best practices in preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault. She is coordinating the upcoming Safeguarding Children Campaign (due out Winter 2019), a program that will provide thousands of Jewish youth-serving organizations with resources and guidance in protecting the children in their care. As the former 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, served as expert witness in university investigations, developed workshops for survivor healing and support, and partnered with government agencies to improve access to and quality of resources for victims. Previously, Danielle worked at the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault and was a Women, Gender, and Sexuality Research Fellow at Hopkins. Danielle is widely sought out for her training and workshops on consent education and healthy relationships for Jewish institutions across North America.

Trainers 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.

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.