New pledge urges official policies on abuse at Jewish camps, schools
By Kylie Ora Lobell
April 6, 2016
More than a dozen philanthropists and funding organizations have signed a pledge to only support Jewish day camps and schools that have child sexual abuse policies in place in the hopes of raising awareness and supporting best practices.
The pledge, which was introduced April 3 and can be viewed in its entirety at childsafetypledge.org, promises to “Create and Promote a funder pledge strategy for philanthropic giving only to those Jewish organizations which have taken adequate steps to prevent, report, and investigate sexual abuse of minors.”
Founding signatories include Lynn Schusterman, co-founder and co-chairwoman of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; Dana Raucher, executive director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation; and Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Jumpstart CEO Joshua Avedon and Los Angeles-based philanthropist Rochel Leah Bernstein-Deitcher were organizers of the pledge.
“Without an open, urgent and broad-based communal conversation about this issue, we will continue to see headlines about children being molested while in the care of our community’s organizations, which are supposed to keep them safe,” Avedon said. “This had to be addressed urgently, and we believe a child safety funder pledge is the way to address it.”
The pledge was born out of a study carried out over the past year that details uneven policies at Jewish school and camps aimed at preventing sexual abuse, according to the Jewish Week. The survey didn’t examine the extent to which sexual abuse may have taken place in these settings.
According to psychologist Shira Berkovits, who has helped Jewish organizations develop child protection policies and who served as a consultant for the study, all Jewish organizations serving children need to have robust policies in place. “We would not operate a youth-serving organization in a building that has not met the minimum fire safety standards, and we should not provide services to youth without adopting formal guidelines to protect them,” she said.
Results indicated that directors of Jewish day schools and overnight camps are working off of makeshift procedures to combat and answer to occurrences of child sexual abuse. Sixty-eight schools and 89 camps were included in the study.
According to the pledge website, this is a community-wide answer to the problem of not correctly addressing child sexual abuse: “By working together to confront and address this issue, the Jewish community will demonstrate its seriousness and commitment to change.”