We welcome the news this week that at least a dozen influential philanthropists, including Lynn Schusterman and Jay Ruderman, have joined in a pledge to only support Jewish schools and camps that act “to prevent, report and investigate sexual abuse of minors.” (See story on page 10.)
Making use of their philanthropic clout to address an ongoing problem in our community, the funders are responding to a study commissioned by Jumpstart, a Los Angeles-based think tank, which will be released next week at the annual Jewish Funders Network Conference. It shows that directors of day schools and overnight camps “report an uneven patchwork of policies and procedures to prevent and respond to incidents of child sexual abuse.”
The report did not attempt to measure the extent of such abuse but to indicate if and how these institutions are prepared to prevent it and combat it. The goal is to create best practices that will become standard in the schools and camps and could be extended to serve synagogues and other Jewish organizations.
The preliminary findings were based on a survey of 89 schools and 68 camps, with the cooperation of RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network, and the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Rochel Leah Bernstein-Deitcher, who initiated the pledge as a philanthropist and mother of young children, said “the Jewish community has been silent for too long about child sexual abuse, and has not addressed this issue from a broad policy standpoint.”
We are hopeful that shedding new light on the problem and incentivizing Jewish institutions to be proactive will result in a healthier and safer community for all.