Meet the Team

Staff

Marina Awerbuch

Aleinu Program Manager

Marina Awerbuch is the Aleinu Program Manager at Sacred Spaces. Marina has twelve years of experience working with children and parents in community-based settings. Prior to joining Sacred Spaces, Marina served as the Manager of Advocacy Center Operations at ChildHelp Inc., a national child abuse prevention organization. She has led continuing education seminars for professionals and families on evidence-based parent education, trauma-informed care, and child development and conducted community outreach, education, and collaborative program efforts to enhance awareness of child development and child abuse prevention. Marina specializes in building program infrastructure and data management to best support the growth of non-profit organizations with a focus on children’s wellbeing. Holding a Bachelors of Psychology from York University, Toronto ON and a Masters of Advanced Study in Infant Family Practice from Arizona State University, Marina is endorsed through the Infant Mental Health Coalition of Arizona.

Judith Belasco

Executive Director

Judith Belasco is the Executive Vice President at Sacred Spaces. She works to strategically scale and manage Sacred Spaces by aligning 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.

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. Named to The Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36 for her pioneering work on abuse prevention, and awarded the JPro 2022 Young Professionals Award, 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.

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 Ross

Development and Communications Manager

Danielle Ross is the Development and Communications Manager at Sacred Spaces. She utilizes her decade of experience in the Jewish nonprofit world to oversee the development strategy at Sacred Spaces and to refine its communications vision to propel the organization’s mission forward. Prior to joining Sacred Spaces, Danielle worked in development and communications-focused project management roles at American Technion Society, American Friends of Meir Panim, American Friends of Reuth, and the “Honor Diaries” documentary, and freelanced for numerous nonprofits. As a writer, Danielle is skilled in complex and sensitive communications, specializing in creative storytelling. Danielle has a Master’s degree in Marketing with an International Studies emphasis from the University of Alabama, and a Bachelor’s degree in Music Business from Middle Tennessee State University. She holds certificates in DEI from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, and in Global Leadership and Diplomacy from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Masa Israel. As an avid traveler, Danielle has lived in three countries and seven U.S. states, and has traveled to two dozen countries and counting. She is passionate about maintaining a global mindset in her professional and personal life, live music, mental health, and is a major foodie.

Irene Lehrer Sandalow

Consulting Services Manager

Irene Lehrer Sandalow is the Consulting Services Manager at Sacred Spaces. Irene plays a key role in intake for case consultation services and supporting organizations in policy development. For more than two decades, Irene has worked at the intersection of advancing social justice and Jewish communal life at organizations such as Union for Reform Judaism, the Jewish Education Project, and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. She has expertise in building coalitions across diverse organizations, as well as in change management and community organizing. Prior to joining the Sacred Spaces team, she founded and directed SketchPad, a shared workspace community for innovative, ​mission-driven Jewish organizations and entrepreneurs. Irene holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from The New School and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and French Literature from Brandeis University.

Amee Wurzburg

Program Director

Amee Wurzburg is the Program Director at Sacred Spaces. In this role, she oversees the continued development of our flagship programs, Aleinu: Safeguarding Our Children and the Keilim Policy Toolkit, and manages the development of other existing and new programs. She brings to Sacred Spaces over twelve years of experience working in the anti-violence field, including being a rape crisis counselor and running a sexual violence prevention program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Amee led the Youth Health and Well-Being portfolio at Peace Corps Headquarters, during which she provided technical assistance on health education and youth-friendly health services to teams globally. She also worked as a technical assistance provider on sexual health education and services to school districts nationwide through a CDC-cooperative agreement. In addition, she managed a public health and medical anthropology program in India, South Africa, and Brazil and worked at organizations focused on HIV prevention and  LGBTQI+ rights in India and Kenya. Amee received her Master’s in Public Health in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor’s in History from Barnard College.

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.

 

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.