Friday, April 18, 2008

Let All People Go

The celebration of Passover marks the Old Testament-period of Jewish enslavement in Egypt and the Exodus of the Jews, led to freedom by the prophet Moses. There are those who contend that Moses never existed and that Jews were never slaves, who claim there is no historical evidence to this effect, in the annals of Egyptian history, for example. I’m not going to get into that here, since I don’t know enough about this dispute to discuss it intelligently. Suffice it to say that the story of the Exodus is central to Jewish faith and tradition, and that the story of Jewish enslavement has, for millennia, inspired Jews to fight against the slavery of others and to champion human rights. (Yes, there were some Jews who owned slaves in Civil War-era America, but that’s beside the point; fighting slavery/championing freedom is a core element of Jewish morality.)

What is most important on this eve of Passover is that, according to the United Nations, 27 million people worldwide are entrapped in slavery today. In the U.S. alone, the trafficking of human beings for sexual slavery and indentured servitude as household domestics, garment workers and agricultural laborers involves 14,500 to 17,500 new victims each year and is a $9 billion industry annually. Another 800,000 people annually around the world, 80% of them women and children, are forced into chattel slavery, sexual slavery, debt bondage and forced labor, contributing to another $6 billion industry. Contemporary slavery is most prevalent in Africa, Asia and the U.S., but virtually everywhere on earth, someone is keeping someone else prisoner in a horrible, violent way.

There’s a lot of good information on the `Net about slavery today. iAbolish Slavery, America’s Anti-Slavery Group is a good site, as are and, if you would like to know more or contribute to the struggle.

Tomorrow night – whether we’re gathered with family and friends to celebrate the Jewish Exodus, or just having a quiet, secular evening at home – I encourage all of us to remember that slavery is not history and our beliefs (whatever they may be) don’t count for much if we don’t increase our awareness of the contemporary plight and do our part as modern abolitionists.

1 comment:

annulla said...

Great post. You are absolutely right, most people think of slavery as something that happened "way back then." Thanks for the reminder.

Happy Passover!

Blather From Brooklyn