June 28, 2017
by Hannah Dreyfus
In his first summer as director of Camp Ramah Berkshires, a large Conservative sleepaway camp in the rolling hills of upstate New York, Rabbi Ethan Linden is intent on ensuring that all the camp’s policies and procedures are up to code.
That includes, among medical policies, security policies and fire safety procedures, measures to prevent child sexual abuse.
“The core mission of the camp is to care for children,” said Linden, who will have 750 campers under his supervision over the course of the summer. “Coming in new, it was a good opportunity to work with someone who has expertise in preventing the sorts of nightmare scenarios that keep camp directors up at night.”**
“People are not thinking through these issues in advance,” said Berkovits.
Shira Berkovits, founder and executive director of Sacred Spaces, a nonprofit launched a year ago that aims to help Jewish communal institutions develop policies and training to prevent and respond to abuse, is that someone.
“People are not thinking through these issues in advance,” said Berkovits, a lawyer, psychologist, consultant and Jewish educator. “When an issue comes up, people are scrambling to come up with fixes. If we had a code — just like a fire safety code — our community could start to think about the issue of abuse in a different way.”
The presence of Sacred Spaces, which is now working with 10 institutions, mostly in the New York area, is being bolstered by a just-released study by the innovative nonprofit support group Jumpstart that documents “critical gaps” in schools’ and camps’ anti-child sexual abuse policies.
Read the full story here.