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JCAST Chicago: A brief history and 2015 Recap

22 Dec 15
info@ncjwcns.org
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Great End of Year News

 JCAST Chicago is proud and thrilled to announce that we have received a 2016 continuation grant from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.  This grant will allow JCAST Chicago to continue its work educating and raising awareness of the need to end demand and assist survivors.  We want to thank the Foundation and the hard work of our Steering Committee, coalition members, active volunteers and donors, and we especially want to call out the exemplary work of our two staff members:  Julie Newman, Program Director and Melissa Prober, Communications Guru.

Our History

In keeping with NCJW Chicago North Shore section leadership on violence against women, NCJW formed JCAST Chicago in early 2014 in response to growing concern in the Jewish and secular communities about the incidence and consequences of sex trafficking.  Inspired by Jewish values, we partner with interfaith and human rights groups, organizations, government officials, and law enforcement agencies; we are THE VOICE of the local Jewish community against sex trafficking. With continual outreach to Jewish and secular organizations, JCAST Chicago is a broad-based coalition (with a listserve of 350) that shares advocacy alerts, a monthly E-newsletter, and blog.

Our mission: JCAST Chicago works to eradicate sex trafficking in the Chicagoland area through public awareness and education, community engagement, and advocacy at local, state and national levels.  JCAST Chicago receives funds from NCJW-CNS, the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Chicago (JWF), the Driehaus Foundation, membership dues, program fees, and donations.

JCAST Chicago has reached over 1,350 people through presentations, promotional materials, and E-News. JCAST Chicago has orchestrated, facilitated, and/or co-sponsored 30 initiatives: educational programs, actions alerts, book and text studies and conference exhibits.

What have we accomplished?

Advocacy:

JCAST Chicago has conducted letter writing to local officials and law enforcement at events; hosted legislative updates; partnered with Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) to promote the implementation of anti-trafficking laws; issued advocacy alerts on IL bills; published two letters to the editor; received letters from elected officials including Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, a national leader on anti-sex trafficking efforts.

Community Service:

JCAST Chicago established ongoing toiletry and gift card collection for victims and at-risk youth with 3 permanent collection sites in partnership with Hadassah; packed dignity bags in keeping with the Purim Shalach Manot tradition; serves as a resource for Heartland Alliance’s collections of household or baby items for survivors and their families; connected survivors to dentists for free dental care; continually exploring new community service opportunities.

Education:

JCAST Chicago has a wide reach: we created and delivered PowerPoint presentations; created and presented programs to more than fifteen groups including synagogues, Hillel, Hadassah, professional conferences, Amnesty International, Limmud Chicago, JUF agencies, and a local college; and exhibited at two professional trafficking conferences.

We have drawn program participants and volunteers from all walks of life:  physicians, abortion providers, social workers, rabbis, LGBTQ persons, ministry workers, airline employees, attorneys, IRS employees.  Students, young and older adults, and both men and women have been leaders and volunteers/attendees.

Every presentation includes summary of national and Illinois laws related to sex trafficking as well as advocacy action (letter writing requesting support for state or federal legislation, and implementation of laws already successfully passed in Illinois.)  Book and text studies successfully draw attention to Jewish history of sex trafficking and stimulate interest in our work.

Volunteers Make a Difference

Almost everyone who hears about sex trafficking wants to do something to help make a difference.  We had several interested parties from the beginning that signed on to work on this issue.  Additionally, at all our programs, we solicit attendees regarding their specific interests with regard to volunteering with JCAST Chicago.  We have found that when survivors speak to groups, their testimonials strongly engage prospective volunteers.  The Trafficked Teens exhibit generates a lot of interest and empathy for the issue, and encourages volunteers to get involved. Program participants complete pledge cards which facilitate effective follow-up. THANKS TO ALL OF OUR 2015 volunteers!

 

~ Donna Fishman and Beth Gordon, JCAST Chicago Steering Committee Co-Chairs

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