January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York joined 29 Jewish organizations around the country to issue a statement of guiding values on ending human trafficking—also known as modern-day slavery—throughout the U.S. and abroad.
For the final eight days of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month we invite you to read our series of blog posts highlighting each of the Jewish values included in the statement and how they motivate us to work toward the end of slavery and human trafficking.
Value 6: We must address the root causes of trafficking in the United States.
The reality of poverty in our communities and our lack of social safety nets, including severe deficiencies in our child welfare system, puts our youth at risk. Additionally, migrant and low wage workers are vulnerable. The lack of transparency, oversight, and enforcement of existing protections for workers in our myriad nonimmigrant visa categories leaves people at risk of being exploited. While prosecution of traffickers is important — we must hold people accountable for their crimes — addressing the systemic causes of the problem is the only way to end trafficking in the long term, both in the United States and abroad.
by Avra Gordis
My head spins, my heart races and I feel afraid for the suffering and abuse of children and adults who are vulnerable to the forces of their enslavement. Over and over again in my head, I repeat the same thought “But for the grace of God…this could be me or my child or my husband or my brother or my best friend”. The questions are overwhelming but we must start with the beginning of the story, of each story. As long as we keep victims at a distance, they are sad statistics in a world that has many unfortunate realities. It becomes easy to avoid this issue because we are so removed from it. But, the minute we attach a face to a story, the trafficked individual becomes a real person and we must ask ourselves how this could be happening in our world and in our own country?! Once we care about the people who are slaves, we can begin to address the reasons why so many people can be so easily exploited. What happens to the girl from an impoverished, neglectful home when a typical argument between parent and child turns into a girl on the streets who is vulnerable to the whims of abusive substitutes for caretakers? And how can it be that a man who fears that his family will starve if he doesn’t do whatever job he is offered becomes an unfortunate statistic? How is it possible that in the greatest democracy in the world, we do not have safeguards in place to protect our most vulnerable populations? Now more than ever, we must see the faces around us and understand that our humanity depends on taking action to prevent the dehumamnization of others. If it were your sister, what would you do? Do it for the sister you don’t know, the father who sees no options and the example you can set for others just like us.