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September 21, 2014 | 26th Elul 5774

Human Trafficking

Adopted by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
April 9-11, 2000


Every year, more than two million men, women and children become new victims of the trafficking industry. Such trafficking is defined as all acts involved in the recruitment, transport, harboring or sale of persons across international borders through fraud, coercion or force, or debt bondage for purposes of placing persons in situations of forced prostitution or sexual services or slave-like conditions or peonage.

Our Jewish texts teach us that we are responsible for the treatment of our neighbors; we therefore cannot stand idly by as this trafficking continues. For instance, "You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow's garment in pawn. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment." (Deuteronomy 24: 17-18) The modern equivalent informs us that once victims are caught up in the human trafficking industry, they find themselves in situations of forced prostitution, sweatshop labor, or exploitive domestic servitude.

Moreover, "You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will incur guilt." (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). In modern practice, victims of human trafficking are held as virtual prisoners, stripped of their passports, and held against their will, receiving little or no pay.

In addition, the Shulchan Arukh, in dealing with the laws of theft, first legislates against blatant fraud, such as putting good fruit on top. It then continues to legislate against misrepresentations. It states, "One is forbidden to beautify the article being sold in order to create a false impression." Contemporary society indicates that those trafficked are typically acquired by kidnapping, purchase, or lured with fraudulent descriptions of non-existent jobs and a better life.

THERFORE the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism resolves to:

  1. Urge all governments to provide protection for the victims of trafficking, to work to prevent trafficking and to prosecute those organizations and people responsible for the trafficking industry;
  2. Support federal and Canadian legislation that would combat trafficking;
  3. Urge international organizations to combat trafficking;
  4. Urge the U.S. and Canadian government to grant visas to the victims of trafficking, regardless of quotas; and
  5. Inform congregations on the scope of trafficking issues and urge them to:
    A. Support state legislation that would penalize traffickers while protecting the victims;
    B. Work with local and state police and prosecutorial agencies to prosecute the traffickers and protect the victims; and
    C. Join in coalition with other groups offering advocacy aid and assistance to the victims of trafficking.

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