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Dear Friends,

The time leading up to the High Holidays, or yamim noraim, is a time for cheshbon hanefesh - an accounting of the soul. While this period is often used to focus on improving ourselves as individuals, we can additionally use this time to engage in broader organizational and communal cheshbon hanefesh. No matter how well intentioned or executed, our individual self-reflection cannot be sufficient if we are aware of, perhaps even complicit in, an unaddressed need for communal tikkun, or repair.

Taking responsibility for past mistakes is never easy, yet doing so with humility and sincerity can help our communities to heal, connect, and build a foundation on which to move forward. Intellectually, we may recognize that new prevention efforts will not be meaningful if we do not genuinely reckon with past mistakes, yet we yearn to move forward. In doing so we sometimes skip a step, focusing on new policies and practices when we should first be addressing historic or ongoing cases of abuse. Psychologically, the desire to look forward and ensure a better future makes sense, stemming from a proactive, admirable place. At the same time, we know from experience that prior mishandling of abuse can lead to deep pain and a sense of betrayal, significantly hindering future prevention efforts. Even when deep fissures exist within a community, organizations can take corrective action — sometimes decades later — to mitigate risk or do right by victim-survivors. 

In the spirit of the High Holidays, we are releasing our Cheshbon Hanefesh / Organization Reflection worksheet, previously accessible only to participating Aleinu members, for all institutions to access. 

We firmly believe — as we know you do — that all people deserve to be protected, perhaps none more so than those who have been harmed in the past. Reckoning with our organizations’ past actions is as important as reckoning with our own individual actions, and these holy days invite both sorts of introspection and careful self-reflection. We all can improve in some areas: responding to concerns with greater compassion and fairness, actively and swiftly intervening as a bystander, treating victim-survivors with respect, and revisiting past occurrences that may have been “resolved” at the time but continue to cause pain and distrust. 

In the coming days, we ask that you check in with yourself and your organization’s leadership to explore whether any known issues need to be addressed. We hope that this guide, originally conceived of for Jewish youth-serving organizations but applicable to all organizations, is helpful in the process.

As we look at the work ahead of us in 5781, we know that there is much to be done. We feel blessed to do this sacred work, together with you, our Sacred Spaces community. May it be a year of growth, a year of peace, and a year of blessing.


Shira Berkovits                              

President & CEO 

Judith Belasco

Executive Vice President
Resource: How to Care for Older People In the Pandemic
Sacred Spaces recently began addressing elder justice related-issues with a series of three resources on the intersection of COVID-19 and elder abuse prevention. We also want to share this helpful resource that answers five key questions about how to keep older adults safe during this time of increased isolation and social distancing. 


Listen to Shalom Hartman Institute’s most recent Identity/Crisis Podcast on Gender, Power, & COVID-19. Sheila Katz, CEO of National Council of Jewish Women, and our own Dr. Shira Berkovits, CEO and President of Sacred Spaces, talk with guest host Rabbi Sarah Mulhern about the ways in which the pandemic has exacerbated gendered power imbalances and impacted safety and respect in person and online. 

This past Monday, Sacred Spaces was honored that Aleinu: Safeguarding Our Children was selected as one of the five innovative prevention program presentations at the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation’s annual conference. Sacred Spaces Program Manager, Danielle Pitkoff, presented Aleinu’s interactive web platform that guides Jewish organizations in implementing global child protection standards. She also shared what it looks like on the ground to prevent child maltreatment through a faith-based framework. The Prevention Coalition creates a unified effort to promote healthy development of children and youth, and end their exploitation. Sacred Spaces is proud to be a member of the Coalition.
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