Meet the Board

Michelle Friedman, M.D., Board Chair

Michelle is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice, the chair of Pastoral Counseling at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabinnical School (YCT) and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. A graduate of Barnard College, NYU School of Medicine and The Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Study and Research, Dr. Friedman has been involved in bridging religious life and mental health issues for over 30 years. She has spearheaded educational initiatives on a variety of topics, including religious identity, postpartum depression, and sexuality. In 1998 Dr. Friedman was invited to develop a pastoral counseling curriculum for YCT in order to prepare Modern Orthodox rabbis to meet the challenges of contemporary community leadership. Her recent book, The Art of Jewish Pastoral Counseling: A Guide for All Faiths, co-authored with Dr. Rachel Yehuda and published by Routledge, comes out of her teaching experience and ongoing contact with graduates of YCT and other rabbinical seminaries. Michelle lectures and consults for Jewish communities across the US who are grappling with boundary violations or abuses of power.

Shira Berkovits, J.D., PhD

Shira is President and CEO of Sacred Spaces. A behavioral psychologist with a research background in creating large-scale organizational change, and a background 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.

Miriam Klein

Miriam is chair of the Finance Committee at Sacred Spaces. She is a NYS certified CPA and a tax partner at EY specializing in alternative investment funds . In her career, she has spent over 15 years advising alternative investment firms on fund, general partner and management company tax matters, including tax considerations of proposed and enacted legislation and issues including organization and structure, financial products, investor reporting, withholding considerations, management fee waiver and tax allocations. She frequently speaks at industry conferences and publishes in industry journals. She had also been named to the Forbes 30 under 30 Finance list. Miriam has a B.S. in accounting from Brooklyn College/CUNY and an MBA from the Stern School of Business at NYU. She serves on the board of Kingsway Jewish Center in Brooklyn. Miriam lives in Riverdale with her husband and daughter.

Judy Klitsner, Founding Board Chair

Judy Klitsner is a senior educator at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, where she has taught and trained a generation of students, many of whom now serve as teachers and heads of schools throughout the US, Israel and Europe. Judy lectures internationally at synagogues, campuses, rabbinical training programs and adult education programs that span the denominational spectrum, and she is a regular visiting lecturer at the London School of Jewish Studies. In addition to her numerous publications on biblical topics, she is the author of the book Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other (Jewish Publication Society, paperback by Koren Publishers), which received a National Jewish book award and which has recently been translated into Hebrew. For decades, Judy has advocated on behalf of victims of abuse and has published numerous articles promoting a preventative, rather than reactive, approach to the problem. She was among the founders of the Takannah Forum, a respected anti-abuse organization in Israel. Judy raises awareness about the topic with frequent lectures at venues throughout the world.

Yehuda Kurtzer, PhD

Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer is the President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Yehuda is a leading thinker and author on the meaning of Israel to American Jews, on Jewish history and Jewish memory, and on questions of leadership and change in American Jewish life. He is the author of Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past, which offers new thinking to contemporary Jews on navigating the tensions between history and memory; and the co-editor of The New Jewish Canon, a collection of the most significant Jewish ideas and debates of the past two generations. He is also the host of Hartman’s Identity/Crisis podcast which can be found at

Sally Mendelsohn

As a Certified Nurse Midwife, Sally has provided maternity care to women in both home and hospital settings, and comprehensive health care to women, children and families in the US and abroad. She has been an Adjunct Professor of Midwifery at New York University’s Graduate Program in Midwifery, an advisor to female EMTs at a start-up women’s ambulance corps, “Ezras Nashim” in Boro Park, Brooklyn, and has worked as consultant and educator for Traditional Birth Attendants in Rwanda. Currently she studies and teaches Talmud, Bible, and Halakha with young adults in a variety of settings. She has founded several community prayer and study initiatives, including an annual Shavuot retreat, and is an active member of her local Hevra Kadisha since 1990. Sally earned her BA in Judaic Studies Magna Cum Laude from Brandeis University in 1977 and an MS in Midwifery from Georgetown University in 1982. Her combined interests and experience in Jewish education and health make her an invaluable resource to Sacred Spaces.

Cliff Nerwen, M.D.

Cliff Nerwen MD, an academic general pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, has been passionately concerned about the health and safety of children for more than twenty-five years.  A graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, with a BS degree from Columbia University and a BA degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary, he has long been concerned and interested in ensuring that children are safe – in Queens and Nassau where he works, at home in the Riverdale community and at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires where he is the medical director.  As the chairperson of the Child Protection Committee at his synagogue, the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, he has directed the implementation of child protection policies and facilitated conversations and the education of his community about this important topic. He is avidly interested in transferring the lessons learned in Riverdale to the broader Jewish community – to other synagogues and Jewish institutions including camps and schools – preventing the abuse of individuals of all ages, providing education and opportunities for conversation, and making our communities safe for all.