The Child Safety Pledge is a project of Jumpstart Labs and was founded by philanthropist and advocate Rochel Leah Bernstein-Deitcher. Ms. Bernstein-Deitcher approached Jumpstart in 2015 with a challenge: to devise a strategy that would cause the organized Jewish community to upgrade its protections against child sexual abuse within all youth serving organizations (YSOs).
Working together, the concept of a funder pledge was developed as the most effective way to create broad-based change across the Jewish community. To lay the groundwork for the iniative, the first step was to gather data on the state of risk prevention in Jewish YSOs. Jumpstart partnered with noted sociologist of American Jewry Steven M. Cohen to perform a study on Jewish overnight camps and day schools. Working with child sexual abuse prevention expert Shira Berkovits (founder of Sacred Spaces), Jumpstart fielded a survey of camps and schools in partnership with Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) and RAVSAK.
Preliminary findings from the study were presented at the Jewish Funders Network conference in San Diego in March of 2016. Simultaneously Jumpstart made public a list of “Founding Signatories” – philanthropists and foundations that supported the idea of a Child Safety Pledge. These funders signaled their willingness to adopt the Pledge once specific language had been crafted, in the hopes that their leadership would effect a sea change in Jewish communal awareness and seriousness about combating child sexual abuse in Jewish organizations.
In early 2017, Jumpstart convened a working group of experts to craft the Pledge language. Representing a range of viewpoints from within the Jewish sphere and beyond, these individuals contributed to the Child Safety Pledge that will be made public in summer 2017. The results of the study of camps and schools was published as “Child Safety First: Closing the Gap in Best Practices for Prevention and Response to Sexual Abuse of Minors in Jewish Organizations” – Jumpstart Report Issue 6, Summer 2017. The assessments indicated “‘Glaring Gaps’ In Abuse Prevention” as detailed in exclusive coverage in The New York Jewish Week.
In the coming months Jumpstart will host a convening for leaders in the Jewish community to discuss the Pledge, and how our communal organizations can upgrade their safety infrastructure to better prevent and respond to child sexual abuse.