January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month and includes Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11. The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking is encouraging everyone, including students, municipalities, congregations, and community groups to participate in efforts to stand together at the local level to make New Jersey a state that has a zero tolerance for this inhumane practice. This can only happen if there is no longer a demand and if the community at large is aware and involved.
Human Trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, and/or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. New Jersey is a prime location for Human Trafficking because it is a major national and international transportation and shipping hub. Now trafficking concerns are even greater as we hear in the news of the more than four million people fleeing war-torn Syria, joining the millions of other displaced people looking for refuge. They tend to be easy targets for traffickers. (For more on this, click here to read remarks at a U.N. Security Council meeting on trafficking of persons in situations of armed conflicts.)
To strengthen the abolitionist movement, the Coalition is not only focusing on the implementation of the NJ Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act, but is also drilling down to the local level where the actual act of trafficking takes place. It is imperative that mayors lead this effort. To this end, the Coalition joined forces with the NJ State League of Municipalities this year, resulting in the unanimous passage of the resolution Urging Local Officials to Provide Leadership in Ending Human Trafficking at their Annual Business Meeting in Atlantic City in November. Mayors James Barberio of Parsippany-Troy Hills and David Mayer of Gloucester Township championed this resolution which was also co-sponsored by Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty, East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo, Town of Dover Mayor James P. Dodd, Borough of Mountain Lakes Mayor G. Douglas McWilliams, Winslow Township Mayor Barry Wright, and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
Human Trafficking is a person-to-person crime that falls under the jurisdiction of mayors and local law enforcement. The Resolution gives mayors a platform to play an important role in fighting human trafficking and urges them to make a difference by raising awareness in different ways.
This year the Coalition is asking its membership to observe Human Trafficking Awareness Day by organizing and participating in the following three actions:
- Advocate with your mayors to create Awareness Day observance in your town.
- Engage with local clergy to organize an Anti-Human Trafficking Shabbat or Service in your house of worship on the weekend preceding Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
- Attend and promote the NJ Human Trafficking Summit on January 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in Wayne, New Jersey, co-sponsored by the Coalition. Mayors Barberio and Mayer will be presented with the 2015 Abolitionist Award.
For more information and resources, please visit www.njhumantrafficking.org. If you or your congregation or community is planning an observance, please let us know at NJHT@jfedgmw.org or (973) 929-3088.
The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking has remained active since it formed in 2011, with a membership of over 100 diverse organizations. Last year the Coalition was able to hire an administrator through a generous matching grant from the Community Foundation of New Jersey along with significant contributions from the Atlantic Health System, Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, Episcopal Diocese, and other generous organizations and individuals.
The work of our Coalition has helped to spearhead the concern about the increase in Human Trafficking throughout the country and the need for community involvement has been taken on by the Jewish community around the country with this portfolio being taken on by staff at JFNA and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), and NCJW and Hadassah have made it a number one priority issue. The Jewish community is not disaffected by this concern, we are victims and purchasers, and our tradition of Tikun Olam encourage us to be outspoken advocates against slavery.