USCJ Announces Its 2018 Shoshana S. Cardin Award Winner


USCJ is proud to announce that Dr. Clifford Nerwen of the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, New York will be awarded its 2018 Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Award. The award will be presented at USCJ’s General Assembly of Kehillot in New York City on Sunday, December 2.

Dr. Nerwen was nominated because of the work he has done to make Jewish institutions safer for children. His goal is to make all Jewish institutions, from camp to synagogue to youth groups, models for preventing child abuse. In 2016, Dr, Nerwen challenged his synagogue to create a policy to protect children from abuse. His synagogue, in turn, appointed him to chair a committee to do just that. Partnering with Dr. Shira Berkovits, the C.E.O. of Sacred Spaces, a cross-denominational initiative to address abuses of power in Jewish institutions, Dr. Nerwen and his committee created Safeguarding Our Children, A Child Protection Statement.

Safeguarding Our Children is a document that details the steps Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale is taking to protect children, explains how the synagogue will respond to violations of the policy and allegations of child abuse and outlines the culture it wants to create regarding children’s safety. Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale is one of the first congregations in the United States to have such a document.

Victor Vieth, a nationally recognized expert in the field of interpersonal violence and the founder of Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, said of Safeguarding our Children, “This is hands down the very best policy I have ever seen.”

Dr. Nerwen encouraged the members of his community to face the uncomfortable truth that any institution can unintentionally attract members who wish to harm children. He made the synagogue leaders realize that they have a responsibility to protect children from danger and he has emboldened the members of his community to reach for high standards.

Rabbi Barry Dov Katz, who nominated Dr. Nerwen, said, “His commitment, passion and deep understanding has set a very high bar for our community. His superb leadership has guided us to meeting that high bar.”

Besides being a children’s advocate, now serving as the Board Chair for Sacred Spaces, Dr. Nerwen is a pediatrician, father and Conservative Jewish leader. He has previously served as the ritual chairperson and the president of Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale. He is also a lay leader for Camp Ramah in the Berkshires and the National Ramah Commission, and a former member of USY, USCJ’s youth movement.

Dr. Nerwen was chosen from our largest pool ever, with 90 nominees. His nomination stood out to the committee because of the scalability of his child protection program, which makes it transferable to any number of settings. It is clear that the impact he has made goes beyond his own community.

“Because of [Dr. Nerwen’s] efforts, our members are more knowledgeable about the signs of abuse, more careful about creating a culture that protects children and know what to do if there is ever a suspicion of abuse in our community,” said Rabbi Katz. “As Sacred Spaces begins its work in the Jewish community, Cliff will help change the Conservative movement and the Jewish world.”

Shoshana S. Cardin, one of the most influential Jewish leaders of our time, established her namesake award on the occasion of the USCJ centennial in 2013, to recognize emerging Jewish leaders who are making a difference in strengthening and transforming Jewish life through the lens of Conservative Judaism. It carries a $5,000 stipend and the opportunity to connect with other emerging Jewish leaders from across the continent through USCJ and its network of kehillot and leaders.

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