About a year ago the social action committee at Lakeside Congregation invited Donna Fishman, a current Co-Chair of The Jewish Coalition Against Sex Trafficking, JCAST Chicago, and a founding member of the Coalition, to speak at our monthly meeting. She introduced us to the advocacy and education work JCAST Chicago supporters are organizing. When I heard the overwhelming number of children sexually exploited in the greater Chicagoland area, I knew I needed to take action. After attending many training classes, I received a certificate of training in Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
I also became involved with Selah Freedom, a safe house located on the North Shore providing a holistic approach for women leaving sex trafficking. The house opened earlier this year and provides safety and housing for survivors.
On Sunday, August 13th, I volunteered to help host a birthday celebration for a sex trafficking survivor at Selah Freedom. Thanks to a team of volunteers who cooked, baked and decorated, the birthday girl had her favorite Mexican food and to end the meal, a piñata full of candy!
Selah is a Hebrew word meaning to pause, rest and reflect. Those words were never more evident than during this event. It was a time for me to reflect on the commitment I have made to volunteer and give someone a chance to feel loved and celebrated.
At the house, every evening after dinner, everyone forms a circle and shares a few words of encouragement, hope and strength through inspirational messages. Being a part of the circle after the birthday celebration was a very emotional moment for me.
“If I can change one life, I feel that I have succeeded.”