“In every generation all of us are obliged to regard ourselves as if we ourselves went forth from the land of Egypt”
Exodus 13:8

These words we read on Passover ring especially true to me through my work on human trafficking as the Chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Most of us believe that slavery is something of the past, or happens in lands far away, but the fact is that 3000 years after the Jewish people were liberated from slavery and 150 years after the Civil War, more people are enslaved today than at any time in history.  Our work found that more than 28 million men, women, and children are the victims of human trafficking (sex trafficking and labor trafficking) around the world, and that trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world, one of high profits  — $32 billion annually — and low risk. This is happening in every country around the world and in all 50 states.  It is happening in our own communities.  Our tradition teaches that redeeming captives is one of the greatest mitzvot.  At this time, when we recall our own journey from slavery to freedom, I welcome you to read our report on how faith based organizations can partner with government to eliminate modern day slavery.  

If you believe this issue doesn’t touch you, I ask you to take a minute to take the Slavery Footprint Test to discover how your everyday life is impacted by human trafficking. We may not see it, but slavery touches each of us every day — the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the phones we use, have often been produced with trafficked or slave labor.

When we  read in our Haggadah “this year we are slaves, next year may we be free” let us be mindful of those who still suffer at the hands of others, and let us learn about this and begin to join in the fight to combat modern day slavery.

Susan Stern, a Wexner Heritage alumna (NY/Sidley), is a local and national civic leader who currently serves as the chair of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service and as Chair of Global Programs for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.  In 2011 she was nominated by President Barack Obama to chair the President’s Advisory on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and completed her service in December.  She serves as immediate past National Campaign Chair of JFNA and has served as the National Chair and President of National Women’s Philanthropy of United Jewish Communities, Chair of the National Young Leadership Cabinet, and Campaign Chair and Chair of the Board of UJA Federation of New York. She is married to Jeffrey, also a Heritage Alum (NY/Sidley) with whom she delights in two sons and their first grandchild. Susan can be reached at Susie@skstern.com.