Speaking at a summit run by the Polaris Project and convened by the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central New Jersey, a Jewish survivor of human trafficking urged the audience to learn what they could about a global scourge that includes sex trafficking, forced labor, and involuntary servitude.
The conference, held March 30 at the Aidekman Jewish Community Campus in Whippany, was sponsored by 25 local organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and attended by more than 170 people.
“The Jewish community is unaware of this modern-day slavery,” the Jewish survivor told the gathering. “We need to learn the red flags and teach the community what to look for.”
In addition to another survivor (their names and full presentations were off limits to the media), presenters included representatives from law enforcement, local community institutions, and the Polaris Project, an organization serving victims of human trafficking. Polaris has an office in Newark and staffs a 24-hour hotline (1-888-3737-888). The organization has received $10,000 in grants from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New Jersey.
Speakers discussed collaborative opportunities and offered training on how to recognize and deal with trafficking.
Polaris Project defines human trafficking as commercial sex or labor induced by force, fraud, or coercion; involuntary servitude; peonage; debt bondage; or slavery. The U.S. State Department estimates that as many as 27 million people around the world, including a disproportionate number of women and children, are victimized by human trafficking.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has partnered with CRCs and other Jewish organizations around the country to raise awareness and launch initiatives to put an end to human trafficking.
Last month’s summit marked the beginning of a local CRC-led effort to address the issue.
“The purpose of the summit was to learn what we can do,” said CRC director Melanie Gorelick. “We will be meeting after Passover to discuss the next steps.”
She indicated that those steps would likely include supporting new legislation ensuring stiff penalties in New Jersey for human trafficking, promoting a program for law enforcement in cooperation with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, and raising awareness of the issue throughout the Jewish community.
The Jewish trafficking survivor stressed that undertaking the effort is essential. “Short Hills, Millburn, Livingston — these are all affluent communities,” she said. “And it doesn’t matter. I’m not from the inner city. I’m not from Newark. This goes everywhere. It doesn’t have lines.”
The following organizations sponsored The Human Trafficking Training Summit for Community Collaboration by Polaris Project:
A.E. Smal & Company
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.-Beta Alpha Omega Chapter
Atlantic Health System
Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central NJ
Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Morris County chapter
Jersey Battered Women Services, Inc.
Jewish Labor Committee
Jewish Women’s Foundation of New Jersey
Junior Leagues of New Jersey State Public Affairs Committee
Morris County Human Relations Commission
National Council of Jewish Women, Morris County
National Council of Jewish Women, NJ SPA
National Council of Jewish Women, Union County
National Organization for Women, Morris County chapter
National Organization for Women, New Jersey
New Jersey Catholic Conference
Project Stay Gold
Rabbis for Human Rights North America
The League of Women Voters