Hillel Passover service raises awareness about human trafficking


Kevin Austin, the director of the Abolitionist Faith Community for the Not For Sale campaign, gives a speech on stopping human trafficking and slavery on Friday at Hillel UW.


A Hillel staff member raises money for ending human trafficking and slavery during dinner at Hillel UW.

The UW Jewish community took a new approach to Passover on Friday night by exploring ways to help abolish modern-day slavery while reflecting on their ancestors’ escape from bondage.

Hillel UW, a center for the UW Jewish community, hosts a Shabbat service and dinner nearly every Friday during the school year, but they offered a different service last week. About 20 synagogues around the country participated in the Freedom Shabbat program this year, which is intended to educate and motivate the Jewish community through a special Shabbat service centered around the issue of human trafficking.

Hillel partnered with the Not for Sale campaign, a non-profit organization dedicated to abolishing human trafficking, in an attempt to create a Shabbat service showing attendees the problems surrounding slavery today and encouraging those throughout the Jewish community to work toward correcting this injustice.

Robert Beiser, the director of social-justice programs at Hillel, hopes the event will inspire the Jewish community at the UW to feel a deeper pull to help with the problem of human trafficking.

“Every year, Jews celebrate Passover, but very rarely do we connect these issues [of the past] to what is happening now,” Beiser said.

After introductions and a short documentary about human trafficking, donation baskets were passed around, and people were free to join a smaller discussion group.

Attendees discussed their experiences with human trafficking and the relation between this problem and their faith. Beiser led the discussion by reading quotes from rabbis and other readings related to slavery, as well as by posing questions to the smaller group about Jewish identity, history, and slavery throughout history and in modern times.

The Shabbat dinner service that followed the discussion kept with the issue of modern-day slavery with a card detailing the life of someone affected by human trafficking placed on each plate. After the main course, Shabbat attendees were encouraged to read the story on their card and stand up when their particular card was called, while a human-trafficking statistic was read aloud.

The event raised money for the Not for Sale campaign and brought a face and story to modern-day slavery. Kevin Austin, director of the Abolitionist Faith Community for the Not for Sale campaign, spoke to the people in the Hillel audience of the tie they may feel to the cause.

“We are one people, Jewish people, Muslim people, Christians,” Austin said. “We need to put aside our differences and dedicate ourselves to abolishing slavery in our lifetime.”

Reach reporter Erin Flemming at news@dailyuw.com.

Please read our Comment policy.