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Advocates against slavery
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Advocates against slavery

Last month, federal prosecutors announced that Newark was selected as the site of one of only six national enforcement teams focusing on human trafficking. The designation will allow prosecutors and law enforcement to devote more resources to investigating and prosecuting human trafficking. The targets of this interagency cooperation include those engaged in forced labor, international sex trafficking, and child sexual exploitation. 

“Human trafficking robs victims of their liberty, exploits them for labor and for sex, and infringes not only on their rights, but on their essential humanity,” said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in announcing the teams. 

It is welcome news that the federal government is boosting its resources to fight the scourge of human trafficking, but there is plenty more to be done at the state and local level. The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, for example, focuses on getting state government and local municipalities to pass legislation and resolutions committing them to the fight. The coalition also aims to promote awareness on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which this year falls on Jan. 11. Local organizations and individuals can take part by:

• Advocating with their mayors to create Awareness Day observances;

• Organizing an Anti-Human Trafficking Shabbat or service on the weekend preceding Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and 

• Attending and promoting the coalition-cosponsored NJ Human Trafficking Summit on Jan. 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in Wayne. 

The Jewish community is playing an important role in these efforts; one of the chief partners in the coalition is the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. Its director, Melanie Roth Gorelick, reminds us that Jews are not immune from the scourge of exploitation. “We are victims and purchasers, and our tradition of tikun olam encourages us to be outspoken advocates against slavery,” she writes. 

For more information and resources, visit njhumantrafficking.org. If you or your congregation or community is planning an observance, inform the coalition at NJHT@jfedgmw.org or 973-929-3088.

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