A New Jersey Roundtable on Ending Human Trafficking, held by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in his Newark office, drew representatives of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking — including coalition convener Melanie Roth Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ — and other state activists. The strategy session on ending trafficking in New Jersey and throughout the country took place April 10, just prior to the Senate vote on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking, which was cosponsored by Menendez.
The coalition, among whose 100 organizational members are several Jewish organizations, including the CRC, has been carrying on its advocacy efforts with elected officials and acting as a resource to governmental bodies at the state level.
“Human trafficking is one of the great moral challenges of our time,” said Menendez, “and there needs to be a resounding global cry to end sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced marriage, debt-bondage, and the sale and exploitation of children around the world.
“I have heard both horrific and heartwarming stories from these outstanding NJ leaders and was pleased to convene a productive meeting to translate these stories into meaningful action,” said Menendez. “We owe it to all of the people in our state, country, and around the world to take action and exert U.S. leadership.”
He added: “I look forward to heading back to Washington to continue to push anti-trafficking bills and I’m cautiously optimistic that the gridlock can end on the Senate Floor and we can vote on comprehensive — and agreeable — legislation.”
The coalition is active with the NJ Commission on Human Trafficking, which was formed in the fall. Many of the commissioners have come to speak to the coalition, and joint projects are in process. In March 2014, Gov. Chris Christie appointed the members of the commission. The commission was mandated by the NJ Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act, which was passed into law in May 2013.
The commission is charged with evaluating the existing law and its enforcement; reviewing existing victim assistance programs; promoting a coordinated response between public and private resources for victims; and developing ways to promote public awareness, the national 24-hour hotline, and training courses.
Throughout the spring, the coalition is organizing a number of advocacy programs for high school students to help them form abolitionist clubs, performance art at Rutgers School of Law, and community public awareness events including an NCJW and CRC joint program on April 30. For more details visit njhumantrafficking.org.