Inaugural Newsletter & Timeline

As the broader world has learned over the past few months, abuse of power within institutions (what we call “institutional abuse”) is both systemic and potentially overwhelming. Sacred Spaces is the brainchild of a group of Jewish professionals frustrated by witnessing an ongoing cycle of abuse, cover-up, and superficial reforms made only in response to media exposure of longstanding institutional abuse. In 2015, we sat in a room, closed the door, and asked ourselves the following questions:

  • What does our Jewish tradition have to say about the problem of and the solution to institutional abuse?
  • What would a systemic solution look like?
  • Could we unveil it across the entire Jewish community, turning an ordinarily divisive issue into a unifying communal goal?
  • How do we move from a fear-based reactionary approach to a proactive one?
  • How do we shift long-entrenched institutional cultures and empower Jewish organizations to lead the charge from within?
  • What safeguards must be implemented internally to ensure that we remain above the fray as we take on difficult, often fraught work?

Our answer is Sacred Spaces, a cross-denominational initiative to systemically address abuse of power in Jewish institutions. 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.

Our vision is no less than creating new standards for abuse prevention and response in every single Jewish institution; and we cannot do that alone. Many of you have been with us on this journey from our earliest days while others have joined us only recently. Whenever you got here, and whatever your reason for being here – we’re so glad you are.

Stay tuned for our next newsletter to learn what we’ve got planned for the year ahead.

Shira Berkovits, Esq., Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
www.JewishSacredSpaces.org