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"WHAT PREJUDICE MEANS TO ME CONTEST" 2012 CLICK PICTURE BELOW

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NCJW Insider Column

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Presidents’ Message

Championing Victims of Human Trafficking

L

ess than two years ago, members of our Section got together to form a study group to explore what we could do to fight human trafficking. We talked with other New Jersey Sections, then with the Community Relations Committee, and then with other community groups. We formed the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking with approximately 20 other community groups.

One year ago, we helped to convene a community education program, attended by over 170 people. This past fall, we contacted every mayor in Morris County to request that each town issue a proclamation in support of Human Trafficking Awareness Day. We recruited people to attend the Rally in Trenton on January 11, and our Section helped to financially underwrite lunches for the attendees. Our members Lesley Frost and Ava Schlesinger spoke at the Rally.

Susan Kirchner brought a display about our work to the NCJW Washington Institute, and received lots of positive comments and requests for information.

We lobbied for the passage of comprehensive legislation to fight Human Trafficking, and just before Pesach the bill passed both the State Assembly and Senate unanimously. At this writing, we are lobbying for Governor Christie to sign the bill into law, and hopefully, by the time you read this, he will have done so.

Not bad for less than two years’ work. So what’s next?

Today (April 8), over 50 people from organizations throughout the state met to discuss how to fight trafficking at the 2014 Super Bowl. The Coalition now has over 40 member organizations, and people attended who represented a broad range of religious and community groups, professionals who advocate and who provide services for victims, and law enforcement.

We learned that any event that draws 1,000 people or more is a magnet for trafficking, not just sexual exploitation, but labor trafficking including domestic workers and street sales. The organizations ECPAT and SOAP reach out to hotels and travel services to educate staff on how to report and prevent trafficking, and the Coalition is now exploring how we can work with them in preparation for the Super Bowl. Future Prism articles will explain their creative, successful work, including imprinting the Polaris Hotline number on bars of soap provided in all hotel rooms.

Why are we doing all of this? We must remember that we were once slaves in Egypt, and we must work to free all who are enslaved today. Kathleen Parker expressed this well in an article that appeared in the Star-Ledger on April 7: “. . . when you save one woman, you save an entire

family. Eventually, you save a village, and a society and finally a nation.

More to our immediate interest, women’s security elsewhere corresponds directly to our own security . . . Fighting for women and girls isn’t ‘a nice thing to do. It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands,’ said [Hillary] Clinton. ‘This is a core imperative for every human being and every society.’ ”                                 —Susan Neigher, for the Presidents



Higher Ground: NCJW's Domestic Violence Campaign

Higher Ground:

NCJW’s Domestic Violence Campaign

October Is Domestic Violence Awareness and Education Month:

Here’s How You Can Help

Victims of Domestic Violence

  1. Become one of five NCJW, West Morris representatives on the Rachel Steering Committee.  This requires attending four to five meetings per year, making a donation to the Friends of Rachel Campaign and serving on one subcommittee.
  2. Become a synagogue Liaison. This requires you to publicize Rachel events and programs in your synagogue, and request that a Rachel program be part of one synagogue event, such as a Sisterhood or Men’s Club program, Bar/Bat Mitzvah projects, Rachel Shabbat, etc.
  3. Become a Court Advocate. This requires our 40-hour training and giving one day per month in the Essex Family Court to assist victims. Contact Suzy Groisser, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
  4. Volunteer to work on a Rachel subcommittee.
  5. Become part of the Friends of Rachel Campaign.
  6. Donate to the Gift Card Program: Acknowledgment cards will be sent if this is a gift in another’s honor or memory. All funds and gift cards to such stores as Target and Shop- Rite are given to clients.
  7. Attend a Rachel event or program.

NCJW, West Morris is founding member of the Rachel Coalition. For more information on the Rachel Coalition, visit the website: www.rachelcoalition.org.

 

How Many Slaves Work for You?

Don’t be ridiculous! I don’t use slaves. Slavery is in other countries, but not here. And I’m careful about the items that I buy.

But the raw materials for these items—cotton, titanium in cell phones, mica in makeup, and many, many more—are often grown, mined, or processed by slaves. It’s not a clear line from supplies to final products. It could be that only 2 percent of the beans in your coffee come from suppliers who use slaves, and the coffee processors aren’t even aware of it. Moreover, trafficked human beings exist everywhere, even in US fields and factories, without our knowing it.

What can we do? A first step is to take the tutorial you can find at www.slaveryfootprint.org. It will open your eyes and help you to join the campaign to end human trafficking.


CASA: Helping Our Most Vulnerable

Elias was 18 months old when he captured the heart of his CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer, Mary, who was assigned to his case. Elias had been removed from his birth mother’s care while they were living in a homeless shelter. His mother was not able to parent her young son and she relinquished her parental rights in court.

Like all CASA volunteer advocates, Mary had received 30 hours of classroom instruction from program staff and other professionals in the community. After the classroom instruction was complete, she was sworn in by the Family Court judge. All volunteers conclude their training with a required 3-hour courtroom observation before taking a case. Thereafter, volunteers are required to fulfill 12 hours of in-service training per year.

Elias’ biological father, who was not living with Elias, came forward and asked the court for custody of his son. Although the court terminated the father’s parental rights, he appealed the decision. Mary’s advocacy placed Elias in a loving foster home. Over the next three years Mary was there for Elias every step of the way, through his adjustment to foster care medical visits and court hearings. She made recommendations to the judge in reports, and followed through on the case until it was permanently resolved.

Typically a CASA volunteer spends about 15 hours a month doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteer advocates work anywhere from 4 to 20 hours per month, depending on the complexity of the case to which they are assigned and visits to their child once a month.

Elias continued to live with the same foster family and when asked how he felt about living elsewhere Elias replied, “Oh no, I have to go home to mommy and daddy.” After a long delay, the Appellate Court remanded the case back while maintaining jurisdiction. It was a long, drawn-out process and a mediation session was arranged with the foster parents, the biological father, the law guardian, the DYFS (Division of Youth and Family Services) caseworker, the mediator and the CASA volunteer. After almost three hours with all participants discussing what was best for Elias, his biological father surrendered his parental rights, allowing Elias to be free for adoption by his foster parents.

October 8, 2010 was a joyous day for Elias and his foster parents. Mary and all the CASA and DYFS workers, who were seeking what was best for Elias over the past three years, joined the foster family and their friends, to attend Elias’ adoption in Judge Wright’s courtroom. Elias’ new adoptive mother said, “I still cannot believe we are here.”

CASA volunteers like Mary come from every walk of life and have a variety of professional and educational backgrounds. Many volunteer while employed full-time and nationwide 82% are women. CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties typically has about 170 active volunteers, most of whom handle only one case. In contrast to DYFS caseworkers, who are responsible for the entire family, a CASA volunteer is an independent appointee of the court who concentrates primarily on the child assigned to her. CASA volunteers do not replace DYFS, guardians ad litem or others involved with the case, nor do they provide legal representation in the courtroom. Their role is to work with all involved to promote the child’s best interests by providing the judge with a carefully researched background study of the child to help the court reach a balanced and sound decision.

For more information on CASA in our community visit their website at www.casa-mc.org , watch the Prism for more articles and join fellow NCJW West Morris members in projects and programs to support CASA.

As a speaker and advocate for victims of domestic violence, the most frequently asked question I hear is “Why does she stay?” The answer is complex and highly individual, as no two victims are alike. But just for a moment, imagine that some disaster has struck and you have to leave your home right now. Where would you go? Do you have any money? Who would help you? Victims of domestic violence do not have positive answers to these questions and the fear of being homeless and destitute is real because two-thirds of the women and children in homeless shelters are fleeing abuse. And women who do have friends and family to turn to, do not have the financial resources to fight their abuser in the courts and losing custody of children is all too often the result.

NCJW is responding to the additional distress caused by economics to domestic violence victims with a new campaign. Launched at NCJW’s Washington Institute, the Higher Ground campaign is a national effort to end domestic violence by improving the economic status of women. NCJW has always been an advocate for women’s safety and economic security. Now with the Higher Ground campaign, you have an opportunity to expand your impact by addressing the connections between these two critical issues. Sign up for Higher Ground today at www.ncjw.org. In the months ahead, NCJW will provide you with important updates, educational resources, and action alerts.

For those who do not have computers, we will continue to include actions you can take in this campaign in the Prism. One of the bills that was presented at Washington Institute is “The Healthy Families Act” (HR 2460/S 1152), legislation sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) that would guarantee workers the opportunity to earn up to 7 paid sick days per year. Although the federal government offers at least 13 paid sick days to its employees and no state government offers fewer than 8 to theirs, 4 in 10 private-sector employees do not receive the same consideration. As such, men and women are forced to go to work sick, send a sick child to school, or improvise less-than-ideal solutions when a family member is sick. Further, paid sick and safe days would protect the paychecks and jobs of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking when they need time off to seek assistance. This job security is particularly important because the loss of employment can be devastating for victims who need economic security to ensure safety.

Take action on this bill today, either through the NCJW website or by contacting your representatives directly. And thank you for all you do to help the victims of domestic violence.

For more “insider” information on any of these suggestions, contact Lesley Frost, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 973-898-0555.


—Lesley Frost

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