This year we are slaves; next year, may we be free.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all other forms
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 4
To be a Jew is to know both slavery and liberation. Maimonides teaches that the mitzvah of redeeming captives takes precedence over many other mitzvot, since those held against their will suffer a constellation of indignities such as hunger, and because of the commandment to not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. Because of the Jewish experience of the Exodus, the Torah commands us to protect the stranger in our midst 36 times — according to the Talmud, more often than the laws of the Sabbath or of keeping kosher.
As Americans, we are often proud of our repudiation of slavery and forced labor. After all, slavery has been illegal here in the United States for nearly 150 years, and similar laws exist in most other countries.
And yet, 3000 years after the Jewish people are said to have been liberated from slavery, and 150 years after the Civil War, more people are enslaved today than at any other point in history. According to the most conservative estimates of the International Labor Organization, nearly 21 million people are held in situations of forced labor today: 3 out of every 1,000 people in the world.
Motivated by both this troubling reality and the core values of Judaism, T'ruah launched the Jewish Campaign to End Slavery and Human Trafficking. T'ruah is leading the charge from within in the Jewish community against modern-day slavery and human trafficking, focusing on the issue of slavery in supply chains through a collaboration with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. By educating the Jewish community about the issue of forced labor and equipping individuals to take action, T'ruah engages the Jewish community to end trafficking and empowers individuals to make a difference.