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Sex Trafficking and Random Acts of Brilliance

22 Aug 16
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We’ve collected items for trafficked kids on the streets. We’ve listened, we’ve learned, we’ve begun to educate and build awareness.  There’s no question that these are all important steps. Yet, it never seems to be enough to make a dent in the prison that is human sex trafficking. That feels depressing.

What I find inspiring is to have discovered that there are pockets of brilliance popping up all around—even in some, perhaps, surprising arenas. Just as we speak today about entrepreneurial incubators for start-up businesses, innovative people and organizations are actively incubating new concepts and practices to help banish this dehumanizing trade.

I’ve recently learned about two such random acts of brilliance.  Turning the Tables was the not-so-random act of Lilach Tzur Ben-Moshe, a Tel Aviv fashion writer and editor.  Through her volunteer work at a rape crisis center, Lilach saw the realities of the sex trade and she became determined to help women leave it. And what was her solution? She helped these women learn skills in fashion styling, dress design and sewing by providing a free course and training. It’s a way up and out for many women in the Tel Aviv area. Turning the Tables helps build real job skills, as well as confidence and new found resilience for many former victims of trafficking. In 2015, NCJW, and in 2016 the Hadassah Foundation, provided grant funding for Turning the Tables. It’s direct, impactful, life-changing and can be replicated anywhere. Brilliant.

Another act is Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT).  Yes—truckers.  The founders of TAT recognized that often their own transportation systems were being exploited by traffickers, as victims were often seen around truck stops and the restaurants and motels frequented by truckers as they work. So, they set out to prepare training videos, develop wallet cards and other materials that became part of trucker orientations. They’ve mobilized their members and others to learn how to recognize signs of trafficking, then report and combat it. Brilliant.

So, we see random acts of brilliance making a real, hands-on difference in this fight. These ideas, and certainly there are others, can be applied to many different areas and industries. Can we brainstorm and come up with a short list of viable ideas that we can implement through JCAST Chicago?  I’m in. Are you?

Ronna Ash
Executive Director
Hadassah Chicago-North Shore

Trafficking In Israel with Rabbi Levi Lauer

05 Aug 16
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Tuesday, September 6, 2016
11:00 am – 1:00 pm, Slice of Life, 4120 West Dempster, Skokie, A Kosher dairy lunch is included in the $25 cost.

Join JCAST Chicago, NCJW and Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago at Skokie’s Slice of Life for a lunch and learn with Rabbi Levi Lauer, founder of ATZUM, an Israeli organization that strives to remedy injustices in Israeli society and encourage individuals to become social activist agents of change. Rabbi Lauer is an amazing and inspirational speaker. Don’t miss this chance to meet him! In 2003, ATZUM joined forces with Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar and established the Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT) to help Israel eradicate human trafficking within its borders. The TFHT works tirelessly to engage and educate the public and government agencies to confront and eradicate modern slavery in Israel, and lobbies for reform in the areas of prevention, border closure, protection of escaped women, and prosecution of traffickers and pimps. Click here for more info on ATZUM’s efforts to combat sex trafficking.

Thoughts on Trafficking

23 Jul 16
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As a new member of the coalition, I was shocked to learn the facts and figures of sex trafficking in the country and in particular Chicago. According to the Center for Impact Research, there are 16,000 to 25,000 Chicagoland women and girls that are “sex trafficked” each year. Amy Alvaro, a human trafficking specialist of the Cook County State Attorney’s office attributes the prevalence in Chicago to the fact that it is a large convention city with a huge international airport.

In May, I attended a seminar lead by Lori Cohen, chair of NCJW Exodus Campaign and the director of Anti Trafficking Initiative at the Center for Battered Woman’s Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families in New York City.
Sanctuary for Families provides many services to its victims, most of whom are immigrants or a part of the LGBTQ community. Among them is an Anti-Trafficking initiative that provides services to victims of sex trafficking so they can build a life without relying on funds from exploitation.

In many instances it is difficult for them to seek help. One way sanctuary reaches their target audience is by going to events in parks and public places where they hand out cards in the primary language of the neighborhood. The cards have the pertinent information for victims to contact the appropriate person at the Sanctuary to receive the professional help they need. There are a variety of services provided in many areas including counseling and crisis intervention, legal services, and economic empowerment.

Lori mentioned a New York Times Magazine article, “Should Prostitution be a Crime?” by Emily Bazelon (published May 5, 2016). Posted below are 3 perspectives of crucial statistics, survivors viewpoints and stories, which were missing from the article. There are more posts on The Sanctuary blog page (

To the Editor:
Re: Should Prostitution be a Crime?
If the small group of privileged “sex workers” highlighted in Bazelon’s article have their way, and prostitution is decriminalized around the world, every boy will grow up knowing it¹s acceptable to buy a body whenever he feels the urge. The result? The market for flesh will grow, delivering a windfall to traffickers and pimps and putting millions more women and girls in harm’s way. The standard PR line of the commercial sex industry is that we in the anti-trafficking community “conflate” consensual prostitution with trafficking. No, we don’t. Prostitution is the marketplace and trafficking is a primary way that product is delivered to buyers. It’s economics 101. Grow the market and trafficking increases.

Bazelon blithely disregards the harm inherent in prostitution. I’ve seen it up close, having been Director of the Human Rights Clinic at Mount Sinai. The stories from survivors of the sex trade are horrific. The violence in prostitution is staggering. The resulting physical and mental health problems are crushing. We need to adopt the Nordic model, which decriminalizes the prostituted person but criminalizes the traffickers, pimps and buyers. Creating an open market place for the use and abuse of women and girls (and men and boys) would be one of the most shocking human rights violations of our time.

Holly G. Atkinson, MD, FACP, FAMWA
Co-Director, Physicians Against the Trafficking of Humans, American Medical Women’s Association, Past President, Physicians for Human Rights
Re: the New York Times Magazine cover story Should Prostitution Be a Crime.
As a former judge and prosecutor, and now as the executive director of Sanctuary for Families, I have seen thousands of victims who have been exploited in the sex trade. Many of them were lured in by pimps and traffickers, most as children. Others have ended up in prostitution when conditions of extreme poverty and prior sexual abuse leave them with few options.

Ms. Bazelon inexplicably omits the experience of these victims, almost exclusively women and girls of color and undocumented immigrants. Instead, her primary focus is on the comparatively privileged, adult, mostly white “sex worker” as reflected in the cover photo, which creates a falsely benign picture of the world’s most brutal industry.

Prostitution is almost invariably a condition of gender inequality and frequently a violent and lethally dangerous form of abuse inextricably connected to sex trafficking. People in prostitution should not be criminalized and must be provided with services. If we fail to hold traffickers, pimps and buyers accountable, the sex trafficking industry will continue to expand, destroying the lives of new generations of victims.

Hon. Judy Harris Kluger
Executive Director
Sanctuary for Families
To the Editor:
Re: Should Prostitution be a Crime?
Emily Bazelon‘s piece ““Should Prostitution Be a Crime?” makes a case for listening to the voices of those who have actually experienced the commercial sex industry. Unfortunately the voices left out of this piece are the women and girls who have not viewed this as ‘sex work’ but violent exploitation, the experiences of those under pimp control, (over 90 percent of the 400 plus girls and young women GEMS serves annually are or have been under the control of a pimp) and the hundreds of women who have now begun to step out of the shadows to publicly identify as ‘survivors’ of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.

These voices are overwhelmingly the voices of girls and young women of color, (the slide show is clearly overwhelmingly white women), of runaway and homeless youth, of women trapped in addiction and poverty. While the anti-trafficking movement can often over simplify or sensationalize these stories, the truth is both more nuanced and more horrific than any well-intentioned awareness campaign that isn’t survivor led or survivor informed.

As a survivor myself and having founded and run GEMS for 18 years, I’m aware that there are no easy solutions to this issue but at least the NYT could have provided a more balanced view by actually including the voices of those young people who are already marginalized and who view the sex industry as inherently violent and harmful, preying upon the most vulnerable in our society.

Rachel Lloyd
Founder and CEO
Girls Educational and Mentoring Services

Written by Bonnie Ribet,  Member, NCJW South Cook Executive Board, Member, JCAST Chicago Steering Committee

Listen. Talk. Act.: Learn how to Educate Others and What You can do to Eradicate Sex Trafficking

23 Jul 16
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Check-in for the morning session will begin at 8:30.  The afternoon session begins at 12:30
Congregation Solel, 1301 Clavey Road, Highland Park

Please use the form below to register.

The morning session, (8:30 – 12) will give you the skills to present about sex trafficking to a Jewish or secular ADULT group about sex trafficking and how audience members can become engaged in ending demand and supporting survivors. Factual and Jewish content will be presented. Public speaking and presentation skills will be included.

The afternoon session (12:30-4) will provide training for professionals who work with youth (ages 12-18) about how to present information on sex trafficking, methods for changing attitudes about purchased sex and coercion, and why demand reduction and elimination is crucial. Teaching methods will be presented.  Please note: the afternoon session is only open to those with previous experience working with youth.

An optional lunch served from 12-1 can be purchased for $10.
Questions? Please contact Donna at 847-853-8889 or with any questions.

Darci Flynn, MS, Regional Service Coordinator of the Freedom from Trafficking program at Heartland Alliance.
Donna Fishman, MPH, Interim Engagement and Program Director, JCAST Chicago and National Council of Jewish Women
Amy Schwartz, Educator and Advocate

Caleb Probst, Educator, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Donna Fishman, MPH, Interim Engagement and Program Director, JCAST Chicago and National Council of Jewish Women

Selah Freedom to Open Doors in Chicago

23 Jun 16
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Many people are surprised to learn that over 3000,000 American children are sold in the sex trade each year. When the founders of Selah Freedom learned this they went looking for an organization to support but found none. What began as a grassroots initiative of women from across the country to be a voice for the voiceless has quickly transformed into a thriving organization. Selah Freedom actively confronts the issue of sex trafficking and is being upheld as the statewide model in Florida for how to effectively bring solutions to survivors of sex trafficking & exploitation. Selah is a Hebrew word which means to pause, rest, and reflect. We give survivors a chance to do just that. Women in our programs have an opportunity to dream again; to discover who it is they were created to be. In order to do this, Selah Freedom closely partners with law enforcement, legislators, and influential leaders to not only shed light on the staggering statistics, but also to work together to change those statistics by changing lives! Selah Freedom attacks the problem of sex trafficking from all sides by focusing on four foundational programs: Awareness, Prevention, Outreach, and Residential.

Selah Freedom started our mission in Sarasota, Florida but we are now expanding our operation to serve victims in the Chicago area. Sadly, Chicago is one of the top five cities in America for sex trafficking and even more heartbreaking is that there is currently only a small home for minors and zero beds for those sex trafficking survivors who are over the age of eighteen. Along with passionate advocacy groups such as the JCAST, Chicago has some of the best resources and lawmakers in this area, and experts like the teams at CAASE (Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation), The Dreamcatcher Foundation , Stop IT Now and many more, are doing amazing things to provide resources and services. Unfortunately, there are no long term solutions in the city. This means that girls often end up right back in the sex trade, as there is no place for them to go to be safe, heal, and begin a new life. Chicago is such a great city- we are thrilled to be able to open housing here and start making it the solution center it should be.

Our first goal is to raise $280,000 to open the first phase of our residential program, ideally on the north side of the city or Evanston. We have had homes donated in the past- and hope this happens in Chicagoland- a 3-4-bedroom home is all we need to begin, even rent free for just one year is a huge gift- and a great tax write off for the donor. Instantly, six women will be given a new start in life- and the momentum begins to engage the community and grow to accommodate even more.

If you are looking to get involved and help Selah Freedom’s mission, we like to say, “Raise your Voice, Raise your Hand or Raise your Resources!” Right now the greatest help is getting the word out- if you have a venue or group that we can speak to such as a rotary, women’s or men’s groups, junior leagues, or synagogues or churches, and of course- help us financially. Once we are up and running we will have tons of opportunities for hands on volunteers. We need volunteers from tutors to mentors, teaching everything from how to clean a fridge, how to dress, we offer puppy therapy, art therapy, craft classes- horse therapy, music- everything we gave our own children is returned to these precious lives. We need the gifts of every individual to offer them all that was stolen, all of this in addition to the trauma therapy and clinical work we offer.

We could not be more excited to be opening our doors in the Chicago area! The success of our mission depends largely on partnering with local organizations and faith groups in order to raise awareness and community support. We are truly grateful to be joining a community with so many selflessness and compassionate individuals and organizations and cannot wait to start changing lives and bringing Chicago’s sex trafficking victims the fulfilled lives they all deserve.

To learn more about Selah Freedom, visit our website at

~Elizabeth Melendez Fisher, M.A., President/CEO, Selah Freedom


Slaves in Stilettos

22 May 16
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I recently saw Mary Bonnett’s new play MONEY MAKE’M SMILE a play about domestic sex trafficking of youth, written for high school and college age students as well as adults. It’s a journey through youth, choice, impact of family and community. The young girl appears to be doomed from the beginning. A mother who does not want her and she enters the system…the journey takes her to numerous foster homes, eventually a home where the young man is angry the parents brought into the home and encouraged by his friends to “show her whose the man” he rapes her. She has choices along the way to say what really happened but she does not and she enters into an online relationship with “daddy” who says he will love her, protect her, keep her safe and buy her pretty things. She becomes his “sex slave in stilettos” kidnapped, physically abused and tortured unless she makes money for him. She reaches out to a boy with a crush on her for help but he feels paralyzed and does nothing.

At different points throughout the play everyone can make different decisions and choices. She could have told the therapist from child services what really happened. The boy could have called the police when he saw her abducted. Mary has taken many questions about our times, blue versus pink, cultural expectations of manliness, girls and science, what will lead people to action when they see injustice, the big business of sex trafficking, on line grooming and has created a powerful vehicle for conversation. There is guide for teachers to have meaningful conversations about issues that matter.

One of the lines that stood out for me was slaves in stilettos. I googled that and it was all porn sites, and foot fetishes. Personally I was disgusted and felt dirty seeing 13,000,000 results. I wanted to go take a shower. But that is a starting place. We as a community need to own the truth. “These girls are slaves. They are bought and sold every day. They are branded and tattooed with a barcode so that traffickers can identify their “stock”. They are dressed provocatively because they are forced to. Men buy the look. They want to feed the fantasies they see on porn sites. These girls, these little girls, they are someone’s child. In Chicago on any given day 16,000 to 25 000 children are sex trafficked. There are boys and girls. Yet the majority are girls. They need our help.

Learn the signs a child may be being trafficked.
Call the police or hotlines when you see something. 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733)
Encourage your schools to have programs that talk to young men about the exploitation of women.
Host programs in your community that talk about this issue.
Support movies, art shows, books that talk about this subject.
These are difficult conversations and often through the varied “Arts” of story telling you can open up meaningful dialogue like Mary Bonnett’s plays. To see more about her work go to


~~Rae Luskin is a member of the JCAST Chicago Steering Committee and a Creative Activist, Speaker, Author and Artist. This blog article is reprinted with her permission.  See the original article at

Kosher for Passover Food For Thought

15 Apr 16
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passover ad final


As our homes fill with the comforting smells of brisket and matzo ball soup, we anticipate celebrating Passover with our families and friends. We remind ourselves that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but now we are free. Avadim hayinu. We were slaves.But even as we celebrate our journey from slavery to freedom, there are those still enslaved in our community, our state and our world.

Perhaps you already know that human trafficking is often called “modern day slavery” and that victims of trafficking are all too often forced into prostitution and forced labor. This year when we fulfill our responsibility to act and take a stand against human trafficking, we have a unique opportunity to remember that we “were once slaves in Egypt” and fulfill the promises of our own Jewish heritage and traditions.


This year, we at NCJW will be dedicating ourselves to raising awareness about human trafficking. The materials below can enhance your Seder or just provide you with materials to share.


The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) has created an anti-trafficking Hagaddah that you can incorporate in your Seder. Click here to download a copy of The Freedom Haggadah, An Anti-trafficking Seder

Did a slave produce the wheat for my matzah? What about the wine or the egg? Guess how many slaves worked to produced your Seder, and learn what steps you can take to root out slavery in our supply chain. Download T’ruah‘s Passover Taste of Slavery Footprint.  T’ruah also offers a print ready Haggadah on fighting modern slavery which features an engaging examination of modern slavery, with classical and contemporary texts. Click here to download The Other Side of the Sea: A Haggadah on Fighting Modern Slavery.

American Jewish World Service offers a number of Passover resources including Haggadah supplements and readings for your Passover Seder. Click here to view and download.

Free the Slaves in collaboration with Rabbi Debra Orenstein, Rabbi Erin Hirsh and other outstanding Jewish educators has created a variety of engaging materials that will highlight modern-day slavery at your Seder including Next Year, Free! A Modern Slavery Curriculum, Seder Starters and Passover Prep. Click here to view and download. 

Seder2015 offers several customizable Passover Haggadot inlcuding a Human Trafficking Haggadah Companion. Click here to download.

Moving Traditions offers a Seder supplement titled Hiding and Finding the Matzah—and Ourselves.  Click here to view and download.

NCJW Sacramento Section has a human trafficking Seder supplement available. Click here to download.

This year, give an afikomen prize that will make a difference. Donate to JCAST Chicago North Shore’s Action and Advocacy Campaign today! Click here to donate. 

May you and your loved ones have a happy and healthy Passover. May the stories of our past inspire each of us to take action for justice and safety in our communities and around the world.

~~ Melissa Prober, Communications Director, NCJW Chicago North Shore and JCAST Chicago

March Blog – NCJW Washington Institute 2016:  What’s at Stake for Women

22 Mar 16
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Earlier this month, 350 NCJW members and supporters from around the country including 9 members of the JCAST Chicago Steering Committee spent an amazing three days in Washington learning, advocating and raising our voices on behalf of others at Washington Institute, NCJW’s premier public policy event.  Although I have been a member of NCJW for over a decade (and a staff member for nearly as long), this was my first time attending, but it won’t be my last.

Washington Institute attendees spend three intensive days learning about important issues from experts, network with life-minded advocates, gain skills to promote change, and speak to  decision makers during lobby visits on Capitol Hill.  This year, we were trained on the following four issues:

  • Ensuring qualified federal judicial nominees receive timely votes
  • Supporting the Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR 2867/S 1659)
  • Supporting the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (HR 1779/S 262)
  • Supporting the Each Woman Act of 2015 (HR 2972)

Although all four of these issues are vital to the well-being of us all, I want to focus on the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act.

For over four decades, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) has provided three types of federal grants to help communities deliver life-saving and supportive services to homeless, runaway, and disconnected youth.  The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA), S 262/ HR 1779, introduced in the Senate in January 2015 and the House of Representatives in April 2015, would reauthorize and strengthen these critical programs by collecting human trafficking data, adding a nondiscrimination clause that mirrors federal regulations, and increasing the temporary length of stay for homeless youth.

Introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate and Reps. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) in the House, these bi-partisan bills would reauthorize and expand RHYA’s three community grant programs in several ways. (1) The length of stay in the Basic Center Program, which provides temporary housing with crisis intervention services to minors, would increase from 21 to 30 days. (2) The Transitional Living Program, which offers longer-term residential services for older homeless youth, would be required to provide suicide prevention services, referrals to mental health care services (if trafficking victims), and statistics of human trafficked youth. (3) The Street Outreach Program would provide crisis intervention and service referrals to runaway and homeless youth at street drop-in centers.

Runaway and homeless youth programs provide vital services to runaway, homeless, and disconnected youth. This modest investment has laid the foundation for a national system of services for our most vulnerable young people.  Youth who runaway or are homeless are especially vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 1 in 5 of the 11,800 runaways reported in 2015 was a likely sex trafficking victims. Programs aimed at homeless and runaway youth are critical to helping youth find stable, sustainable housing. In 2014, over 85% of youth exited these programs safely and effectively; in 2013, 72% of youth in RHYA temporary housing reunited with their families.

In our visits, we found that at least one Congressperson’s Chief of Staff was unaware that this bill was different from the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act signed into law in 2015.  Please contact your elected officials and urge them to learn more about the RHYTPA, become a co-sponsor of the bill, and urge their colleagues to do the same.  You can reach your US Senators and Member of Congress via the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the office you request.

Your power as a constituent cannot be underestimated.  Representative Bobby Rush is now a cosponsor of the RHYTPA after Lynne Oberman (NCJW South Cook president) and her fellow NCJW South Cook section members met with his staff.  He signed on the day they visited.  Remember one voice can make a difference.

NCJW Chicago North Shore Board member Tina Cantrell summed up Washington Institute with some powerful thoughts: “We live in a world of hurt and need.  We can accept that and sit back, doing nothing, or we can take a stand, often courageously and surrounded by risk-taking, to try to make the world just a little better.  Fighting injustice bit-by-bit speaks to my conscience and my Jewish values.  I have respect for Tikun Olam, repairing the world, and although my actions seem small compared to other women’s efforts in NCJW and elsewhere, I believe we can make a difference when working together.”

Thanks for standing with us to prevent youth from becoming trafficked.

~~Melissa Prober, Communications Director, NCJW Chicago North Shore and JCAST Chicago

Sarah’s Story

23 Feb 16
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JCAST Chicago was formed by NCJW Chicago North Shore Section in 2014 when we began to learn that sex trafficking is pervasive and a form of modern day slavery.  We know that sex trafficking knows no boundaries; women (and some men) of all ethnicities and socio-economic levels are victimized and men (and some women) of all ethnicities and socio-economic levels are perpetrators (johns, pimps and traffickers).    I share with you this “testimony” by a sex trafficking survivor that she shared at a conference in New York.  She’s a Jewish woman and was victimized in her home and in her synagogue; like virtually all victims of sex trafficking, she had been sexually abused as a child.  Our hearts reach out to all victims of trafficking.  Please help JCAST Chicago raise awareness of sex trafficking in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities so we can save young people from falling pretty to trafficking.

(The following testimony is excerpted from the ‘We Were Slaves: The Jewish Community Unites Against Sex Trafficking’ Conference which was held in April 2013.)

Sarah’s Story

Many of you may be wondering why there is an anti sex-trafficking conference directed at the Jewish community. You may believe that my experience is completely atypical, a fluke. It is easy to turn your head and pretend that slavery, especially in the streets of New York, does not happen today. I am asking you to open your ears to those who would speak out against the injustice in their life, if only they could. Open your eyes to the men who supported my pimp and continue to support other pimps, as they pay for our bodies to be used against our will.

Many of you here today, as doctors, social workers, business people, educators, religious leaders and even just as ordinary citizens, may come into contact with someone exploited in prostitution, if only you recognized the signs. You are also in a position where you can educate the men who pay for sex and who continue to make trafficking a lucrative endeavor.

My experience is not unique. It happened to me, but it could have happened to any other girl. What sets me apart, and the only reason I am able to be here today, is because of the people who refused to pass the responsibility to someone else. But even the help I received did not come until after many years of abuse.

No one is born a prostitute. I was lucky to be born into a close-knit family, with parents who did their best to provide my siblings and me with good support and an education. Sex was not talked about in my house, and so when I was little and a neighbor molested me, I was embarrassed to talk about it. I hated Hebrew school because I did not understand why I dressed modestly only to have my tights pulled down, as I tried not to cry.

When the man who later became my pimp, raped me, I did not tell anyone because I blamed myself for giving into his beatings and placing myself in the situation. Eventually the line blurred between being beaten, being threatened, and choosing to have sex out of my own will.

After so many times of being set up with strangers and not being able to say no, even when a man was repulsive or violent, I began to convince myself I enjoyed what we prostituted girls called “the life”, so that I could live. I tried to convince myself that it was a game. The times I broke the rules by not cooperating or trying to believe that I could get away, a beating by my pimp brought me back to reality.

I always blamed myself for not being able to get away. I believed I was weak and should have been able to walk away from the nightmare I was living. The self- blame and shame stopped me from telling my family and others around me.

I also thought it was obvious, but the people around me did not notice or chose not to care. I was kicked out of Hebrew school for hanging out with older men. My pediatrician commented on my injuries, but never identified me as a trafficking victim. I went to a free clinic almost weekly to make sure I did not have any STD’s, but no one there realized I was forced into prostitution, even though the staff noticed my injuries and I was honest about the number of men who had sex with me. I was beaten in several stores, but instead of reaching out to help me, both my pimp and I were told to leave. I was in and out of the hospital for injuries my pimps inflicted on me, several times. I was well known in the local precinct, as I was often robbed or assaulted. I also tried to go to the police for help, but I was turned away, because instead of seeing a crime victim, they only saw a prostitute. One store owner noticed the interchange of money between me and older men, and contacted my family. It was that small action that led to my family’s involvement.

When I was being trafficked, I could not seek help from the police or those around me. My pimps told me that if I did, my family would be attacked and my sister would be raped. I could not see outside my world, and to me, my pimp was the most powerful person in my life.

I also felt extremely conflicted about “snitching” on the man who forced me to have sex with other people. He isolated me from my family and friends. His friends became my friends. I felt really close to him. The more I stood by him, despite his violence, the more he seemed to respect me. When he hit me, I blamed myself for stepping out of line and believed that it was because he cared about me.

I was stopped by the police several times, but they ignored the signs that I was being abused. A few years ago, I was in a car that was stopped at around 3 am. I was with men over ten years older than me, and the police asked me if everything was okay. Surrounded by the same men who beat me, I said yes. No more questions were asked.

There is no singular physical description that can describe the men who pay for sex. Nor is there a religious, educational or occupational divide.  Some Jewish men, like men of many other religions, also pay for sex. Some of the men who paid to have sex with me wore a kippah, a few men were Muslim. Some men had multiple degrees; others never even graduated high-school. Some talked about their wives and one even showed me a picture of his kids.

One day I met someone, who refused to turn the other way. No matter how much I tried to justify my life on the street, he told me it was not okay. He helped me refocus on my goals and work on the practical obstacles that lay in the way of getting off the street, such as moving and dealing with law enforcement. He allowed me to see a bigger world, one in which I could live out of my pimp’s reach.

I was scared about leaving prostitution completely because I did not want my family to be harmed. It seemed impossible for my family to move, as my siblings were in local schools and my family could not afford to move. The staff at the social service agency that assisted me assured me that I could focus on getting out, instead of keeping my family safe. They helped my family move, and provided me with therapy and support that enabled me to move on from the life.

Now, I am out of prostitution and have the luxury of being able to set the boundaries for my body. I learned that the quick racing heart I have had for so long, was not normal, but rather anxiety. I no longer had an ever-increasing pile of ripped jeans with the buttons missing, or shirts, ripped from being beaten. I find myself sitting in class, appreciating the fact that I am sitting there without having to make up for lost time, later that night. I no longer have bruises, burns or cuts to hide. The condom I carry, in case I get raped, is still the same condom I have carried for months.

I had always thought I would be able to walk away, unscathed. But somehow, my life on the street has found ways to seep into the normal life I had wanted for so long. The same principles that kept me alive on the street, are the ones that are contrary to living a so called, normal life.  Nightmares jolt me up at night as I relive the same events that I had one time considered normal. I fend off every possibility of getting to know another guy, even as a simple study partner, for the fear of being raped again.

However, I now have the freedom that will enable to get past it. With the help and support of my professor, therapist, social workers, a prosecutor, a social service agency and my family, I was given the chance to get away from the person who forced me into prostitution.

I did not know I was a victim of sex trafficking, and it took me a long time to get help. You are here today, because any one of you could be in the position to help a sex trafficking victim get off the street, either directly or by putting her in touch with services that would help her. You are also in a position to educate others to recognize sex trafficking victims and to take a stand against paying for sex. What happened to me could have happened to you, your wife, your daughters, your nieces or your friends. It is time to take a stand against sex trafficking and show support to those who believe they are alone and cannot say no.

Thoughts on Trafficking: JCAST Chicago January Blog

15 Jan 16
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As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied in all seriousness, “I don’t know, but whatever it is, I want to be famous enough to get a day off of school named for me!”

With ideas of fame and fortune well behind me and the awe inspiring work of serving my community on the forefront, I’ve never looked back on my decision.  As the Senior Program Officer of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, daily I learn about innovative programing and from communities wanting to positively impact their progeny’s future.  Constantly impressed by the relentless commitment to improve outcomes, change practices and policies, our grantees see the impact of their work not in terms of one completed program, but the shift that they are making on society’s behaviors, definitions, engagement on an issue, and legislation.

My personal path throughout the nonprofit and philanthropic sector took me from Chicago to New York to Washington, D.C. and back again to Chicago. While each step along the way provided a culturally rich education and rewarding experience, it seemed that one societal ill plagued each community; sex trafficking.

In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as:  “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age” (22 USC § 7102). The term “commercial sex act” is defined as any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person (22 U.S.C. 7102).

The underground sex economy’s value is estimated between $39.9 and $290 million annually (Urban Institute, 2014).  Statistics suggest that wherever you are reading this article, right now 1 in 6 runaways are likely to become victims of sex trafficking (Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2014).

Individuals who buy sex provide the demand and profit incentives traffickers seek. Many buyerss of sex are unaware, poorly informed, or in denial about the realities of the sex industry.  Victims of trafficking are usually subjected to violence, coercion, threats, lies, and manipulation by their traffickers. As contrary as this may sound; this is the good news, this is where we can make a difference.

National Human Trafficking Day is observed annually on January 11. Rather than trying to get a vacation day on the school calendar as I once dreamed of, why not spend one day doing something that can change the way an individual or a community views those most vulnerable in our community? JCAST Chicago works to eradicate sex trafficking in the Chicagoland area through public awareness, community engagement, and advocacy at state, local and national levels. With your help, we can educate elected officials, policy makers, leaders, and residence about the realities of trafficking and end the demand.

Don’t let another day that goes by without learning more about this pervasive issue.

~~Sara Kalish, Senior Program Officer, Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago

JCAST Chicago: A brief history and 2015 Recap

22 Dec 15
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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?


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.


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

 Truck Drivers Help End Demand for Sex Trafficking

23 Nov 15
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Fact #1: Truck drivers are a huge part of the demand for sex trafficking.

Fact #2: Truck drivers are fighting to help end the demand for sex trafficking.

Trucker Kent Kimmel was parked at a pilot truck stop in New Kent County, VA when he saw a young woman hiding behind a black-curtained RV window. “The black drapes didn’t make it look like a families’ RV. When I saw the young girl’s face, I said, that’s not going to happen.” After Kimmel called the sheriff’s department, deputies came and interviewed the woman, age 20, who told gruesome stories of torture, imprisonment, and forced prostitution by a man who kidnapped her in Iowa and transported her to Virginia.

The trucking industry makes up a large portion of the demand for sex trafficking victims across our country.  Heavy trafficking activity occurs at travel plazas and truck stops where truckers are forced to park and rest.  Young girls will come up to the trucks, knocking on the doors to offer sex, and truckers think they are hiring willing, young woman for sexual services, when in reality they are slaves whose controlling pimps keep the money. Tens of thousands of truckers crossing the highways of our country are in the unique position to recognize and report incidents of possible sex trafficking during their many hours on the road. Since 2009, truckers made more than 1,000 calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, giving tips that “have led to countless arrests and recoveries of victims across the country”, says hotline director Nicole Moler.


Here are two organizations that are leading the fight:

Truckers Against Trafficking

The non-profit organization Truckers Against Trafficking teaches drivers to recognize and report sex trafficking. Their mission is to make learning about trafficking a regular part of training and orientation in the trucking industry. TAT has made their own training videos that teach truckers about the results of human trafficking, and what the red flags are. An example would be seeing an SUV pull into a parking lot and a scantily clad group of girls who look underage get out and start going from truck to truck. When truckers see incidents like this, they are encouraged to call the police. They have also created The Freedom Drivers Project, a mobile exhibit that educates members of the trucking industry and the general public about the realities of domestic sex trafficking.

Vigilante Truth

“I want to end slavery, so I have to focus 100% on the demand”, says Bo Quickel, founder of Vigilante Truth, a faith-based nonprofit that educates truck drivers on sex trafficking.  Quickel aims to play a role in the end of sex trafficking by changing the culture of men to understand the value of women. He has put billboards on trucks with educational messages on sex trafficking and the national trafficking resource center hotline number, both of which aim to literally drive sex trafficking out of truck stops and rest areas. The trucks end up making truck stops “sex trafficking-free zones”, as pimps know the police will be called when the truckers see the girls. Quirkel has also created an app, Vigilante Trucker, which builds awareness of trafficking among drivers and lets them take photos of trafficking situations they may see and report it to a national database to rescue victims and help catch the pimps involved.  Quirkel says, “We have to change men’s hearts and make them realize they’re not paying for sex, but they’re paying for rape.”

Thank you to Truckers Against Trafficking and Bo Quickel of Vigilante Truth for their innovative work, and meaningful impact in fighting to end trafficking in our country.

~ Deborah Zionts

Deborah Zionts is a member of the JCAST Chicago Steering Committee and the NCJW Chicago North Shore Board of Directors.


Thoughts on Trafficking: JCAST Chicago October Blog

15 Oct 15
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“More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century.”

This is a quote from Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu Dunn detailing the rampant, as they call it, “gendercide” occurring today in the world, in their non-fiction, book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity.” It is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in learning more about the sex trafficking industry, and opened my eyes to the realities of this horrifying and growing industry.

I initially became involved in the issue of sex trafficking through Congregation Hakafa’s Justice for Women’s Group, which I formed about 2 and ½ years ago along with fellow congregant and friend, Beth Gordon, who had just finished reading “Half the Sky”. Kristoff and Wu Dunn authors guide its readers through Africa and Asia to meet several extraordinary women struggling there, including a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered terrible injuries in childbirth. Although difficult to read at times, it is an inspiring book, and the authors make a great case for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide.

Although I consider myself fairly knowledgeable in the world of women’s rights advocacy, (I am an attorney and a long time advocate for survivors of domestic violence, employment discrimination and reproductive rights) I have discovered that my knowledge about sex trafficking was somewhat lacking and I would like to share with you a little bit about what I have learned:

  • The sex trafficking industry produces an estimated $7 billion dollars in revenue annually.
  • It is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world, only surpassed by drugs and weapons, and is the fastest growing.
  • Once girls enter the sex industry their average life expectancy is 7 years (with homicide and Aids being the top killers).
  • The majority of sex trafficked victims identified in this country are US citizens.

So although it is often seen as a problem that occurs in other countries, and not here in the US, more than 100,000 children are estimated to be trafficked every year here in the US – with 16,000 to 25,000 being from the Chicago area alone.

Most victims of sex trafficking are women and children, most of whom are under the age of 18.

I also think it is very important to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of prostituted women do not choose this profession. A 2008 Chicago study of 100 women under the age of 26 found their average age of entry into prostitution was 16. Many of these girls had run away from dysfunctional homes and were in foster care. They were forced into prostitution, and exchanged sex for clothes, shelter, or food—in order to survive. They were frequently forced to turn over their money to a pimp, and would face violence if they did not. Pimps and traffickers look for people to recruit who have few, if any, meaningful choices in life.

Although these statistics are incredibly alarming, and when we hear them we are rightfully repulsed, I unfortunately think the reality is that the plight of women being trafficked and assaulted has been conveniently ignored by our communities, and perhaps on some level supported and reinforced by them.

For starters, let’s look at media headlines. When Patrick Kane was accused of sexual assault (and I am not making any judgment as to his guilt or innocence), but when he was accused, the Los Angeles Daily News headline stated, and I quote:

“Patrick Kane just another athlete who’s partying may have led to worse.”

And, this headline was not an isolated incident – much of the reporting by radio shows, blogs, and social media have attributed his alleged behavior to drinking too much – suggesting that the alleged assault wasn’t really his fault – but was do to his excessive partying.

Equally troubling was the social media response blaming the victim of sexual assault – suggesting that she was asking for the assault by engaging in this excessive partying. But, isn’t this a double standard? Why is it that when a woman drinks too much, that’s the reason for the assault? But, when a man drinks too much, it’s an excuse for misconduct.

I believe this double standard has trickled down into our communities. Last year when a teenage girl from the North Shore sent an inappropriate selfie in private to her 16 year old boyfriend, which he then forwarded on to several of his good friends, the chatter about this issue focused solely on the girls inappropriate behavior. The reaction was “what is wrong with that girl? She must have a lot of issues sending a picture like that.” This response came from both the high schoolers (the girls) and their parents. What I did not hear, not even once, was “what is wrong with that boy.” Why would he violate his girlfriend’s trust. Why would he have passed that picture along?” And, when I engaged my friends in discussion about this, the initial response I received was “well, he’s a 16 year old boy” Almost like that’s expected. Yet again, another double standard.

This ‘double standard’ has also been prevalent in the public sector. Although both buying and selling sex is illegal, statistics show that prostituted women are arrested at a much higher rate than those who are purchasers.

Unfortunately, when we “buy in” to this double standard, we are reinforcing the ability of the ‘real’ wrongdoers, the pimps, the johns, the purchasers to continue in their behavior, and, even more devastating, we are deterring victims of sexual assault from coming forward to seek justice and retribution.  Fortunately, in recent years there has been more and more attention to the sex trafficking industry, and, I am hopeful a change in attitude is on the horizon and making its way to our communities and mainstream culture.  The best way to address sexual exploitation is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Young men are exposed to a culture that stigmatizes women in prostitution, yet glamorizes pimping and patronizing the sex trade.

In June of 2006, Rachel Durchslag founded the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). CAASE spearheaded the End Demand Illinois campaign, working to end the demand of purchased sex using a demand-supply theory. As part of this program, CAASE has created and implemented the first curriculum in the country specifically designed to educate high school men about the harms of prostitution and to enlist them as allies in the movement to end violence against women and girls.

What I find incredibly inspiring is that pre- and post- tests conducted by CAASE consistently demonstrate meaningful changes in student attitudes. As an example, the executive director of CAASE, Kaethe Hoffer recently stated that “while a majority of boys initially report that they would “absolutely” go to a strip club if given the chance, a majority report at the end that they would “never” go to a strip club, and furthermore, they intend to discourage their peers from doing so as well. This is critical, because strip clubs are a major venue for sex trafficking throughout the Chicagoland area and they are often the entry-point for men who later become buyers.

By helping more boys become men who refuse to “buy in” to the sex industry, CAASE is helping reduce the demand for purchased sex, which leads to fewer girls and women being forced into prostitution.  To date, CAASE has reached more than 2,300 students.

CAASE has also been instrumental in passing several laws aimed solely at the protection of survivors of sexual exploitation, including the Illinois Safe Children Act , which is the first law in the nation to make minors under the age 18 immune
from prosecution for prostitution.

There are many other organizations that have been formed to combat the issue of sex trafficking. And, I do believe the push for reform is growing in momentum. The Jewish Coalition Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago is an organization of which I am particularly proud to be a founding member along with a dedicated group of passionate women hailing from NCJW, JWF, JCFS, JUF and AJWS.

In January 2014, the National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore Section spearheaded this coalition to establish a Jewish voice against sex trafficking in Chicago and this human rights issue has been rapidly embraced by the local Jewish community and several congregations, not to mention the fact that JCAST Chicago is supported by a generous grant from the Jewish Women’s Foundation. Several JCAST Chicago founders also happen to be members of Congregation Hakafa and our Rabbi Bruce Elder from has played an important supporting role as we have consulted with him for educational content. He also gave a powerful call to action on our behalf last Purim at a community-wide interfaith forum on human trafficking in Chicago.

At this point we are looking to increase membership. If you have any interest to learn more and help eradicate this growing industry, we would love for you, both men and women, to join as members and support the important work that JCAST Chicago seeks to accomplish. You can find us at

On a more immediate note, we are currently collecting items for survivors of sexual trafficking for the Dreamcatcher Foundation. They are in desperate need for travel-sized toiletries, power bars and gift cards to distribute during outreach to youth who are trafficked and prostituted in the Chicago area. Items can be dropped off at several locations. Click here to learn how you can help.

On a final note, I urge you again to read, “Half the Sky”, and encourage you to get involved – to educate yourself and talk to your teenagers about these issues, to write letters to the editor or comment on social media blogs, twitter, facebook about the double standard so often articulated with respect to victims of sexual assault.

Thank you so much and LaShana Tova.

Heather Ross, JCAST Chicago; Congregation Hakafa

Apples and Honey and Human Trafficking

22 Sep 15
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When I think of Rosh Hashanah, I think of community and honey cake and apple picking with my family.  I think of my children fidgeting in temple but reciting the prayers with comfort in their familiarity.  I think of round challah and noodle kugel – always sweet – with cinnamon and raisins.  But until recently, I never thought about human trafficking.  I never thought about those who spend their days in chains – figuratively or literally – trapped in the bondage of modern-day slavery.  As Jews, slavery is part of our history – but unfortunately it isn’t just a part of the past.  More people are enslaved today than in any other time in history.  On any given day there are an estimated 16,000-24,000 women and girls involved in prostitution-related activities in Chicagoland alone (  How can we not take any day and every day as an opportunity to support trafficking victims and help those at risk.

Although a number of laws have been passed in recent years which support trafficking survivors (see graphic on right), there is more that needs to be done.  Contact your local officials – police and government – and make sure they enforce these laws.  Sample letters are available on the JCAST Chicago Resources page –

As we reflect upon these Days of Awe and as we celebrate Yom Kippur, we can also think about Tikkun Olam – how we can work to repair the world through social action and social justice.  Become a member of JCAST Chicago.  Membership is free through 2016. Individual and organizational memberships are available as well as organizational partnerships. Visit for an application and be sure to sign up for the JCAST Chicago listserv as well as sex trafficking action alerts on  Help organize a collection of toiletries for the Dreamcatcher Foundation which travels Chicago streets 4 nights a week to make contact with and offer support to sex trafficking victims. Visit for information on needed items as well as donation drop off locations.  Attend the JCAST Chicago Coalition Meeting on Thursday, October 15at Curt’s Café in Evanston.  Visit to RSVP.

G’mar Chatimah Tova.  May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for good.

~ Melissa Prober, NCJW Chicago North Shore; JCAST Chicago

2015 Cook County Trafficking Task Force Conference: Time to Take Action!

24 Aug 15
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On August 6 and 7, the Cook County Trafficking Task Force held its 5th annual Human Trafficking Task Force Conference at Kent Law School. JCAST Chicago members and staff Donna Gutman, Laura Englander, Deborah Zionts, Julie Newman and Melissa Prober attended the amazing two day event which kicked off with opening remarks from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Zac Fardon, US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

The first plenary session featured Rachel Lloyd, Founder and Executive Director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, (GEMS). Ms. Lloyd’s talk suggested we re-focus our thoughts and our energies. The real face of trafficking is so much more than the image of the young child trapped in a cage. It’s also the 16-year-old runaway and the 25-year-old single mother and the 35-year-old drug addict. All victims of sex trafficking. Victims of sex trafficking do not have to be chained to a bed to feel like they can’t leave and you don’t have to be from another country to feel like you don’t have options in this country.

But the fight to end trafficking has multiple facets – prevention, assistance and long-term support. Freeing someone is not where the story ends. To start, at-risk youth need positive adult role models – the presence of just one healthy positive consistent adult in a young person’s life can offset many risk factors and build resiliency. Become a mentor; be consistent; offer a safe place. Focus and funnel your energy and passion into something that will make a long-term difference such as child welfare reform or anti-poverty reform. For ongoing support, fight for access to food stamps, affordable housing, living wage employment, and child care.

Following the opening plenary, there were eighteen additional sessions over the course of the two day conference covering all aspects of human trafficking. Some of the most powerful speakers included Marian Hatcher, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and Dunna Gutman, CEASE (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation) Network, Meredith Dank, Urban Institute, Erin Wirsing, Devereux Florida, Stacy Sloan, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Rebecca Bender, Rebecca Bender Ministries, Anne Ream, the Voices and Faces Project, and others. There are too many sessions to list here in detail but a few are highlighted below.

Donna Gutman and Marian Hatcher gave an amazing presentation offering much insight into the work of the Cook County Sheriff’s office as well as the CEASE Network, a collaboration of pioneering cities committed to reducing sex-buying by 20 percent in two years. The Sheriff’s Office is trying a number of different techniques to reduce demand. For example, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office spearheaded the “National Day of Johns Arrests” in more than 100 different cities. Chicago may be called the second city, but it is one of top cities for sex trafficking. Others include Las Vegas and Dallas. Sex ‘work’ is not ‘work’ – it’s based on survival, coercion. The CEASE Network is looking to work with community service agencies.

Rebecca Bender, a trafficking survivor, took us inside the mind of a survivor when she shared her story. After graduating at the top of her Oregon High School class, this 19-year-old-single mother was convinced by a boyfriend to join him in Las Vegas. From there she was trafficked. Rebecca wasn’t beaten by her trafficker, nor was her child in danger, but as was repeated by several of the presenters: You don’t have to be chained to a bed to feel like you are trapped. Without money or credit, transportation or identification, where can a trafficking victim run? Only after Rebecca’s trafficker was arrested on charges of fraud and tax evasion was she able to escape and restart her life.

Presenter Stacy Sloan discussed domestic sex trafficking of youth and the intersection of child welfare. DCFS sees cases of abuse with allegations of trafficking, and/or cases of trafficking. With youth, there may not always be a pimp or trafficker involved. Youth, both straight and LGBTQ youth, may engage in survival sex, but the lack of a physical trafficker doesn’t make them any less a victim. The Illinois Safe Child Act ends the practice of prosecuting minors who have been prostituted, and instead ensure that exploited children receive a safe home and services.

Barry Koch, Western Union, Jacqueline D. Molnar, Western Union, Ernie Allen, Formerly of NCMEC/ICMEC and Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First discussed increasing the role of the financial industry in combatting trafficking. Banks have the ability to track perpetrators through credit card swipes. They can target frequent use of cards, large volume, and high risk industries. Western Union has been able to “follow the money” and assisted in arresting traffickers out of the Philippines. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world but the resources at work fighting trafficking are alarmingly low. The financial industry has an important role to play in assisting law enforcement in identifying traffickers by following the money trail and thereby reversing the risk-reward equation.

Anne Ream discussed how important “marketing” is to the movement to end sexual exploitation and trafficking. End Demand Illinois launched the Ugly Truth media campaign to raise awareness about the realities of the sex trade. The Ugly Truth campaign was created by The Voices and Faces Project to challenge public attitudes about sexual exploitation, prostitution, and sex trafficking. This campaign presented commonly held beliefs/myths about sexual exploitation along with the “ugly truth” in an attempt to shock people into action. An example of one of the presented myths was “If a woman chooses to sell her body that’s her business,” with the ugly truth being “prostitution is rarely a choice. Most prostituted people enter the sex trade while still in their teens after fleeing abusive homes. They’re coerced by pimps and johns who too often abuse them. Without economic support, breaking free is more difficult than you might think.”

There was so much more information presented during the two-day conference. If you are interested in learning more, contact and we’d be happy to share more of what we learned. And save the date for next year’s conference, August 4 and 5, 2016!

– Contributors: Melissa Prober, Julie Newman and Laura Englander


NCJW’s Anti-Human Trafficking Roots Run Deep!

20 Jul 15
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There was never a question of why National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) would engage fully and lead in the anti-human trafficking movement. It is something NCJW has been doing since 1894, one year after the establishment of NCJW. At that time, NCJW women saw the needs of immigrant Jewish girls as different from that of other immigrants. And NCJW sought to protect its immigrant Jewish daughters. According to author Faith Rogow, in her history of NCJW’s first 100 years, NCJW determined that the greatest threat to female immigrants was the white slave trade. It was an often covered up fact that in the late 1800’s and beyond, the white slave trade was often led by Jews. One source estimated that half of the prostitutes on Chicago’s West Side in the early 1900s were Jewish. Initially, NCJW concentrated its work on the juvenile courts (still a focus today) and on developing ways to keep girls from meeting the white slavers (also sounds like a familiar strategy!). By providing safe housing for single women and guiding them from the docks when they arrived in this country to connect with their families, NCJW women made a huge impact on the white slave trade. By 1903, NCJW was the leader in this unique work and was asked by the US government to help in preventing immigrant girls from ending up with white slavers. NCJW created a permanent aid station on Ellis Island, staffed by both NCJW volunteers and professionals. Between 1904 and 1907, NCJW helped close to 20,000 Jewish women and girls and countless non-Jews make it through customs and safely settle in America.

But this direct service was not the total answer for NCJW’s early leaders. In addition to their social service work to prevent trafficking, NCJW women advocated for governmental legislation to address this issue. Some things never change and never should. This work in the public policy arena continues to this day as NCJW takes the lead in seeking and supporting laws and policies to protect women and girls from the scourge of human trafficking.
It is clear that our efforts today to prevent and eliminate human trafficking of all women and girls (no longer just Jewish women and girls), has its roots in NCJW’s founding focus and the visionary women, many from Chicago, who led this charge. NCJW defined itself by its service and its advocacy then and now. As was said by Bertha Rauh in Jewish Woman (April 1922), an NCJW publication: “In no other religion is charity linked up with the idea of social justice as in ours. The Jewish philosophy which is expressed in the adage: ‘The whole world rests upon the Torah, the practice of religion, and the practice of social justice,’ is so inextricably interwoven with the idea that it is our religious duty to give to the poor with a view of helping them to rehabilitate themselves, that it completely dominates our conception of philanthropy. The abandonment of this controlling idea might indeed be tantamount to weakening our Jewish social structure.” And so it continues today.

The confluence of NCJW’s work in educating the public, providing direct services, and advocating for legislation and policies that support social justice, can be seen in our work on Human Trafficking nationally and locally and in NCJW’s leadership in the Jewish Coalition Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago. It would be nice to say that the groundwork laid in 1894 by NCJW has led to the elimination of sex trafficking. Unfortunately, we still have much work to do. Fortunately, we have a strong history of successes to build on.

– Carole Levine

Carole Levine is a member of the JCAST Chicago Steering Committee, National Recording Secretary of NCJW and a past president of NCJW Chicago Section and a policy and advocacy leader in the organization. She is a principal at Levine Partners, LLP, consulting with nonprofit organizations. She is grateful for the history of NCJW’s first 100 years as a source for this blog (Gone to Another Meeting; The National Council of Jewish Women 18933-1993, by Faith Rogow, published in 1993).

Paying the Price

15 Jul 15
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At least once a week, someone mistakes me for a prostitute. It started two years ago when I moved to south Tel-Aviv. At first I didn’t understand why cars were pulling up alongside me as I walked home, trailing me for a few moments and then driving away. After a few months I casually mentioned this strange behavior to one of my neighbors.

“They think you’re a prostitute,” she stated matter-of-factly. I must have looked offended, because she quickly added, “Don’t worry, it’s not just you. It happens to me too.”

Suddenly, many odd interactions began to make sense. For instance, the man who stopped me on street, insisting that he knew me.
“Don’t I know you?” he asked, looking me up and down.
“I don’t think so.” I responded.
“Ahh…” he hesitated.
“Can I help you with something? Do you need directions?”
“Yes, yes. I need directions.”
“Where to?”
“Ahh…never mind,” he mumbled over his shoulder as he walked quickly away.

Men would approach me in the middle of the day when I was on my way to a meeting, or at night when I was coming back from the gym. Sometimes I was able to laugh about it, but mostly I was annoyed and angry. Annoyed that I had to interact with sex-buyers who just assumed that a woman walking alone was a prostitute, and angry that they were permitted to purchase the sexual services they felt entitled to from women who lacked my privilege. Yes, I was annoyed and angry. But I wasn’t frightened until March 19, 2015.

It was a perfectly ordinary Thursday morning in south Tel Aviv. People were going to work, or walking to the market, or on their way to the bus stop. On the corner of HarZion and Salame, less than 100 meters from my apartment, a 37-year-old woman was walking her dog. Suddenly, a man ran up to her, slammed her against the wall of an apartment building, threw her to her knees, pulled down his pants, and sodomized her.

The attack lasted for ten minutes. For ten minutes, the woman tried to fight him off. For ten minutes, she struggled and screamed as people walked by, glanced at her and then looked away, and continued along their way. For ten minutes, dozens of people who passed her on their way to work and school paid her no notice. Taxis pulled up next to where she was kneeling and then drove off. Buses drove by.

After ten minutes, one person stopped and called the police. As the sirens approached, the attacker pulled up his pants and casually strolled away.

Now let us consider why, in the warm daylight of an ordinary Thursday morning, dozens of people witnessed a vicious sexual assault in progress, but averted their gazes, closed their ears to the victim’s screams, continued texting or talking on their cell phones, and kept walking. Let us consider why no one called out to the woman to ask if she needed help. Why no one shouted at the attacker, even from a distance. Why the rape continued for ten long, horrific minutes, before one person decided to call the police.

I’ve asked a lot of people this question, and it made all of them uncomfortable. Several surmised that it was due to the “bystander effect,” a theory which proposes that when there are many witnesses to an attack, people tend to assume that “someone else” will help, or are afraid to be the first to intervene; and thus watch but don’t act, or walk away.

It’s an interesting theory to ponder. But let’s consider something even more interesting: people witnessing an attack are less likely to intervene if they think the attacker is the victim’s husband or boyfriend. In controlled experiments, researchers found that when the woman yelled, “Get away from me; I don’t know you,” onlookers intervened more often than not. But if the woman instead yelled “Get away from me; I don’t know why I ever married you,” most people just walked by. The assumption is that there are circumstances in which a man has a right to assault a woman.

And, of course, if the passers-by assume the woman is a prostitute…well, then, it’s to be expected. Normal. All in a day’s work. It’s an understandable assumption, because paying for sex is legal in Israel; and researchers have long demonstrated that in areas where prostitution is legal or tolerated, a “culture of prostitution” takes root, strengthening the idea that men’s “needs” entitle them to women’s bodies. It’s no surprise that in areas where prostitution is tolerated, rates of gender-based violence rise. A man may have to pay for the right to sexually assault a woman today, but tomorrow he may just assault her.

In Israel, the law and the associated culture have helped to create and sustain an enormous industry built on human trafficking. Thousands of women and girls—poor immigrants, runaway teens, women fleeing abusive homes, Jews and Arabs alike—are lured by traffickers. They’re recruited personally by individuals, strangers or friends, or they respond to newspaper ads promising high-paying jobs. When they meet with the prospective “employer,” they’re sold to pimps and brothel owners. Hotels provide special deals to the pimps, who hire drivers to transport the women to and from “clients.” Impoverished and imprisoned in brothels and discreet apartments, the typical victim is forced to submit to being raped by as many as 15 men a day.

For the past three years, I served as a coordinator for the Task Force on Human Trafficking, a joint project of ATZUM – Justice Works and Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar law firm. TFHT works to engage and educate the public and government agencies, lobbies for reform in the areas of prevention, border closure, protection of escaped women, and prosecution of traffickers and pimps. The effort to confront and eradicate modern slavery in Israel has proven to be an uphill battle. Recent allegations that a member of the Knesset has been involved in pimping and drugs only underscore the complexity and deep roots of Israel’s human trafficking industry.

On March 19th a woman was violently attacked in broad daylight, and dozens of witnesses did nothing. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. Israelis in general, and residents of Tel-Aviv in particular, have determined that the monetized sexual assault of prostituted women is acceptable. But it is not just the women in prostitution who suffer society’s callousness and apathy. All women will pay the price. What happened that Thursday morning in March in my neighborhood happens every day, and in many neighborhoods: people looked at a woman, and saw a commodity.

– Rebecca Hughes

Rebecca Hughes, an avid blogger whose work has been published in the “Times of Israel” and the “Jerusalem Post”, served as Coordinator for ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking Project from 2012 – 2015. She is now studying towards a Master of Science in Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., from where she coordinates TFHT’s international online lobbying initiative, Project 119.

Trafficking Resources

20 Apr 15
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National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Flyer (link)

Recent News Reports Summary Page (pdf)

Instructions for Sending Letters (pdf)

Letter to Mayor (pdf) (doc)

Letter to Police Chief (pdf) (doc)

Mayor and Police Chief Addresses (pdf) (doc)

Sample Letter to the Editor (doc)

Trafficking Resources

10 Apr 15
No Comments

National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Flyer (link)

Recent News Reports Summary Page (pdf)

Instructions for Sending Letters (pdf)

Letter to Mayor (pdf) (doc)

Letter to Police Chief (pdf) (doc)

Mayor and Police Chief Addresses (pdf) (doc)

Sample Letter to the Editor (doc)

Passover Resources

01 Apr 15
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passover table
Below are a number of Passover resources to enhance your Seder.


The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) has created an anti-trafficking Hagaddah that you can incorporate in your Seder. Click here to download a copy of The Freedom Haggadah, An Anti-trafficking Seder.


Did a slave produce the wheat for my matzah? What about the wine or the egg? Guess how many slaves worked to produced your Seder, and learn what steps you can take to root out slavery in our supply chain. Click here to download T’ruah’s Passover Taste of Slavery Footprint.


T’ruah also offers a print ready haggadah on fighting modern slavery which features an engaging examination of modern slavery, with classical and contemporary texts. Click here to download The Other Side of the Sea: A Haggadah on Fighting Modern Slavery.


Seder2015 offers several customizable Passover Haggadot inlcuding a Human Trafficking Haggadah Companion. Click here to download.


NCJW Sacramento Section has a human trafficking Seder supplement available. Click here to download.