Statement of Jeff Mandell, Legislative Director Religious Action Center Of Reform Judaism on the Passage of the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 1999" by the House of Representatives
Wednesday, May 10, 2000
Following the passage of the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 1999," Legislative Director Jeff Mandell released the following statement:
Good morning. I am Jeff Mandell, Legislative Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which serves as the public policy and social action office of the Reform Jewish Movement. We are proud to join this distinguished coalition in welcoming yesterday's overwhelming passage of the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 1999." The Reform Jewish Movement, led by Rabbi David Saperstein, who unfortunately could not join us here this morning, is honored to be part of the coalition that supported the tenacious work of a bipartisan cadre of congressional leaders — particularly Representatives Chris Smith and Sam Gejdenson — and a dedicated academic and social action community, led by the tireless and inspirational director of the Protection Project, Laura Lederer. Without these leaders, yesterday's vote would not have happened.
Every day the multi-billion dollar human trafficking industry expands, dragging in new recruits as young girls and women are bought, sold, abused and deceived into a lifestyle void of humanity. Every day around the world, and here at home, victims of trafficking are held as virtual prisoners, stripped of their passports, and held against their will, receiving little or no pay. But yesterday, the House took a stand. Yesterday was an important step toward ending the horror of human trafficking. By passing legislation that appropriately addresses the core problems and perpetrators of human trafficking the House of Representatives has sent a clear signal that America — this land of freedom — will not stand idly by while innocent women and children are forced into an existence of sexual or sweatshop slavery. While this victory is essential and deserves our exuberance, much work remains. It is absolutely imperative that the Senate heed our call and consider, and pass, trafficking legislation this congressional session.
A few short weeks ago, Jews the world over gathered with their families and friends to celebrate the Passover feast, a commemoration of the Israelites' escape from slavery and a celebration of our current freedom. As we do every year, we tempered our celebrations by recalling the bitterness and the hardships of slavery, and we committed to do all we can to help redeem those who are not yet free. For more than 4,000 years, Jews have refused to forget the horrors of our ancestors' experiences as slaves; every year we say " avadim hayinu ," we were slaves." And every year, we follow this statement by saying "This year we are slaves." Our tradition explains this perhaps surprising choice of words as a way of teaching that we are all slaves until everyone is free, that "no one can be truly free while others are in chains." Because we were slaves, we must bear witness to slavery and injustice around us. Because we were slaves, we ask the Senate to join the House in passing legislation to combat human trafficking. Because we were slaves, we are proud participants in this coalition working toward the ideal of a world without slavery, a world without bondage, a world that is fully free.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing its 895 congregations across North America, whose membership includes 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the 1700 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.