Human Trafficking Q&A with Rabbi Schwartz: ‘every human being is worthwhile’

Faith leaders and community members gathered Thursday for a workshop called Responding to Human Trafficking: Faith Responses.

They gathered to study religious texts and share ideas on how to respond to human trafficking, said one of the event coordinators, Rabbi Beth Schwartz of Temple Israel in Columbus, Georgia.

Schwartz also said they met “to work on developing a way to speak to our congregations . . . to say these are our values, we value every human being, every human being is a reflection of the Holy, every human being is worthwhile.

“. . . we have a covenant in our religious traditions. Exploitation is not part of the covenant that we have, however we express it,” she said.

Schwartz spoke to the Ledger-Enquirer after the workshop, which was held in partnership with the Pastoral Institute and the Columbus Community Coalition to End Human Trafficking.

Here are excerpts from that interview.

Q: Can you explain what human trafficking is?

A: In simple terms, human trafficking is the buying and selling of human beings for the purpose of labor. That labor can be household labor, it can be agricultural farm labor, it can be sex work.

Q: What are some of the joint efforts to stop trafficking, but also stop the demand for it?

A: Well, there are a couple of organizations that will help a victim get to a safe place and to provide specific services to coordinate with Georgia Cares, and there are more efforts to create safe houses, temporary. Some of our shelters also provide shelter space, emergency shelter place, for people who are fleeing trafficking.

Q: How has the faith community been involved with that?

A: Some of these organizations are faith-based, but some of them are independent. We had invited a couple of survivors who came to us through House of Time, which is a shelter agency. The faith community has not been organized as a single community until now, and so this is sort of a first step in bringing that effort to the faith community, bringing awareness and saying “let’s really work together.”

Q: Do you think you all will be meeting more regularly like this?

A: I hope there will be a regular meeting. I hope that we will do more programming like this . . . Many of our seminaries do not provide this kind of pastoral training, and even if they do it helps to have contact with your colleagues and to work together. So, a lot of respect for one another’s traditions, and out of that respect we can, I think, do something important here.

If you are a victim of human trafficking or suspect that someone is being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888, text 233733, or go to their website https://humantraffickinghotline.org.