Safely Scaling Up

Aleinu will launch Nov. 25, providing new, accessible resources to Jewish organizations that want to keep their children safe.

By Maayan Hoffman
eJewish Philanthropy

Child sexual abuse statistics are staggering. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in six American men and one in four women were sexually abused before the age of 18. In the American-Jewish community, it is likely the stats are similar.

Now, the community has decided to take action to stop child abuse of all forms.

A new program, Aleinu: Safeguarding our Children, will launch on November 25th and serve as a “unique and critical resource to New York Jewish organizations,” said Adina Frydman, UJA-Federation of New York’s executive director of Community Resources.

Aleinu, a program of Sacred Spaces, is funded by UJA.

The idea of Aleinu, according to Sacred Spaces founder Shira Berkovits, is to take child safeguarding to scale, to reach hundreds of Jewish organizations, beginning with those in the New York area. 

Over the last two years, Aleinu, under the management of Sacred Spaces program manager Danielle Pitkoff, identified the 10 best practices in child protection that every organization should know. Then, it developed a set of tools for each practice that will enable organizations to implement them on their own.

The first three practices will be available later this month on the Aleinu website, with definitions and videos. 

“We wanted to make this as simple as possible and doable,” Berkovits told eJewish Philanthropy. “We also added the Jewish component – what this would look like for a Jewish institution.”

For example, let’s say a summer camp was hiring counselors. Aleinu provides best practices for interviewers to screen applicants and recognize red flags. The tool includes sample interview questions, role playing, video examples and more. 

Each resource has gone through six stages of development, including beta testing by some area organizations, like Hebrew Institute of White Plains. The practices were compiled by looking at CDC recommendations, as well as those from around the world, including in Israel and Australia.

The public-facing part of the platform will tell visitors which organizations have registered and share the practices on a high level. Organizations who choose to register to access the full set of tools can log in and track their progress on a personalized dashboard. 

“This is not just a website,” Berkovits made clear during a Zoom interview. “We are also hoping to build community awareness. We need the public joining together to make this happen. We want parents calling up organizations and asking them to implement these practices and encouraging them to sign up for the resources that can help them.”

Berkovits said she hopes that local child advocacy centers and related federal organizations will ultimately also offer support. 

Aleinu is rolling out only three steps to start with, so as not to overwhelm the groups that choose to sign up.

“Each step is manageable, and you don’t have to do it all tomorrow,” she said. “You just take one step at a time and work incrementally.”

She said the group hopes to roll out a new step every two months until all 10 are live. Finally, she added, the goal is to start to see systemic changes within the Jewish community. 

“We think we are about to shift the entire field,” Berkovits added. “In a few years, I hope the conversation will look different than it does now.”

Bookmark and visit beginning Nov. 25th.