Every year in our Passover Haggadah, we read the Talmudic injunction, “B’chol Dor- In every generation, we are commanded to feel as if we ourselves were liberated from slavery.” Most of us understand this in a metaphorical way, looking to the spiritual ways in which we may not feel fully free.
Sadly in our day and age, there are far too many people who experience slavery in a very literal way. In our own city, which we have dubbed a “city of compassion” we have staggeringly high rates of modern slavery – a number that is projected to rise over the next month, as a result of the influx of human trafficking victims that get shipped into our city to help “celebrate” Derby.
Research suggests that online ads for commercial sex acts double during this period and that the majority of those involve children. Accurate data about current statistics is challenging as this is a much hidden population. A few months ago, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported that it received 21,947 calls from victims, and it was able to help 1,600 survivors, a 24 percent increase from the previous year.
It is estimated that globally, $32 billion is generated through 27 million human trafficking victims with more than 100,000 that are in this country. Data indicates that far too many of them are in Kentucky, ties to a stained mattress in motels off of I-65. The Polaris Project estimates that 13 is the average age of victims, but that in Kentucky, the youngest documented victim was two months old.
Catholic Charities, which provides support and training on this issue locally, has begun to see an increase in children who are being trafficked by their parents or caretakers in order to pay a debt related to drug use. Children get “rented” for commercial sexual exploitation or labor. Despite popular misconceptions, only 35 percent of victims of human trafficking in Kentucky are foreign nationals.
Modern slavery is all too real for too many of our neighbors. The Torah commands us not to look the other way, but rather to do our part to try to liberate those who are still in bondage. Please join us for a very special interfaith Passover Seder, that will be part of the Mayor’s Give a Day of Service.
Marissa Castillanos, Human Trafficking Program Manager for Catholic Charities of Louisville, will be speaking at this special community Seder co-sponsored by KentuckyOne Health, Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Louisville Board of Rabbis and Cantors, the National Council for Jewish Women and Jewish Family and Career Services, as well as Catholic Charities and Compassionate Louisville who are amongst other interfaith partners. Not only will we be raising awareness about this important issue, but we will be raising funds and resources to combat it in our own community.
Jewish Hospital and KentuckyOne Health is proud to play a leadership role in our community to address this issue, not only from the realm of education, but also in terms of intervention. Recently, we participated in Louisville’s first ever “drop-in” center which provided a variety of assistance and support for men, women and children who are trapped in the life of forced prostitution or forced labor. Services included medical care, substance abuse help, advocacy resources and more. Our next event is planned for Derby time.
May the day come soon and speedily when all will be free, and may this Passover help us take one step closer to this day.
Editor’s Note: The Human Trafficking Seder will be Monday, April 18, at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at the Jewish Community Center. RSVP at www.jewishlouisville.org/HumanTrafficking. For more information, contact Matt Goldberg
It is co-sponsored by KentuckyOne Health; the Jewish Community Relations Council; Jewish Family & Career Services; National Council of Jewish