Sacred Spaces builds healthy Jewish communities by partnering with Jewish institutions to prevent and respond to sexual abuse and other abuses of power.
Below is a set of ethical principles that guide Sacred Spaces in our daily operations and in navigating complex situations. We share them as a way of committing publicly to operating ethically and transparently, and allowing the public to hold us accountable. It is also our way of modeling the standards we ask for from the organizations with which we work.
We approach our task with a deep sense of responsibility toward our community, its institutions, and the members in its care. 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.
We, the staff and board, undertake to cultivate a sacred workspace among ourselves, where the standards we seek to disseminate will be practiced and modeled. We commit to treating our colleagues, both those within our own organization and our partners in other institutions, with the utmost dignity.
The work of creating safe and respectful institutions is a Jewish imperative that goes to the core of what it means to live a life informed by Jewish values.
Most leaders and institutions want to create safe and respectful institutions but lack the knowledge and resources to adequately protect their constituents from abuse.
Being pro-organization and pro-victim are profoundly compatible. Institutions can act in their best interests and be supportive of victims; in fact, they are intrinsically connected.
The work of creating safe and respectful institutions can help communities come together across divides; this is a fundamentally constructive endeavor.
Abuse prevention and response must be informed by two realities: Any person can be mistreated or abused, and certain individuals – particularly those who are socially marginalized – are more vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse than others.
We support Jewish institutions in the day-to-day work of protecting their constituents. Although we partner with institutions, support for victims underlies all of Sacred Spaces’ work.
We engage with a diverse array of Jewish organizations across the denominational spectrum. We do not determine our organizational partners on the basis of ideological or religious beliefs.
We will not decline to work with an institution on account of perceived mistakes in past handling of abuse, but rather assess an organization’s current willingness to take the necessary steps toward preventing future abuse. However, we will not work with an institution on preventative measures if it is currently mishandling an active case.
We seek to be as inclusive as possible, and our work with a particular individual or organization is neither a reflection of our endorsement nor an indication of a problem.
How We Work
We bring a values-based approach to our work incorporating, but going beyond, a purely legal framework.
We build capacity within organizations so that they are empowered to build and sustain a safe and respectful community.
We tailor policies and programs to an organization’s specific needs, risk factors, and culture.
We build in external checks to ensure impartiality, especially in cases involving personal acquaintances or public figures. We engage with experts outside of the Jewish community and rely on independent audits, remaining open to constructive criticism.
We bear responsibility for our mistakes and will take the necessary measures to correct them.
We do not engage in inflammatory language or public shaming. When speaking of specific cases, we refer to alleged victims respectfully and do not publicly question their veracity.
We acknowledge that the power we wield is not our own, but rather the weight of responsibility entrusted to us by our community. Striving towards the ideal God is said to model in Psalms 84:12, we commit ourselves to the solemn task of pursuing “light and protection” (שמש ומגן), promoting transparency within our own organization and, to the best of our abilities, within our communal institutions.
Sacred Spaces is committed to helping to create safe and respectful Jewish institutions in a constructive, inclusive, and collaborative manner. While we recognize many worthy causes and the urgent need for tikkun in the world, we refrain from issuing and endorsing public statements on specific public matters.
Instead, we aim to concentrate our limited resources on the activities essential to our mission: building healthy Jewish communities by partnering with Jewish institutions to prevent and respond to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; harassment; and violence across all ages and stages of life.
As noted in our guiding principles, we approach our work with a deep sense of responsibility toward our community, its institutions, and the members in its care. Within our organization and in all of our public interactions, we work to safeguard the absolute value and dignity of every individual, as we are each created b’tzelem elokim, in God’s image. At the same time, we acknowledge the importance of focusing on our unique areas of expertise. Even as we hold strong beliefs on many pressing social justice issues, restraint in issuing public statements allows us to maintain our singular purpose.