New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking

by Jared Feldman

The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking was established in 2011 by the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ to help create a grassroots abolitionist movement in New Jersey to eradicate Human Trafficking. The Coalition is made up of approximately 100 diverse groups, including: faith-based organizations, ethnic and community organizations, non-profits, government agencies, law enforcement, and direct service providers based in NJ who come together with the mission of ending human trafficking in our state, country and the world through education, advocacy, and assistance to survivors.

  • The goals of the program are: to ensure that NJ has strong laws and resources against Human Trafficking;
  • To ensure strong collaboration among government officials, law enforcement, emergency hotline responders, community members, and service providers.
  • To raise awareness and deter the need for using the services of Human Trafficking victims.

Target Audience: There are multiple target audiences including: government officials, community members, and faith-based and community based organizations.

How is it Exemplary/Outstanding/Innovative Program?

The creation of the NJ Coalition is truly an exemplary and innovative program.  The Coalition is purely unique as it made up of grassroots organizations committed to ending slavery and does not receive any funding from government agencies.  It is a grassroots movement that began with 25 organizations concerned about the issue, and includes now more than 100 organizations.

The strong advocacy voice of these groups has helped to strengthen laws and engage policy makers at the local, state and national levels; increase education through promotion of curriculum and community programs; provide support to high school and college students to organize clubs and actions; engage media; and deter the need in New Jersey. In addition, the Coalition has worked to raise awareness about the correlation between large sporting events and an increase in Human Trafficking.

The Coalition has created a website (www.njhumantrafficking.org) to share best practices, resources, and upcoming programs with the community and has used social media to engage a wide audience.

Over the last several years, the Coalition has created and implemented unique programs that include:

Local Proclamations – The Coalition is seeking local proclamations from all 561 municipalities in New Jersey to designate January 11 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  We currently have 50 plus.  All proclamations are requested to be issued publicly and put in the local newspaper:  Members from the diverse organizations that live in the town issuing the proclamation attend.

Laws – The Coalition helped to work with legislators to introduce and advocate for the passage of the Human Trafficking Protection, Prevention and Treatment Act which was passed on May 6, 2013.  Polaris Project rated NJ as the #1 state with enforcement against Human Trafficking due to the law. The law helps to provide better support for survivors, harsher laws against perpetrators and consequences to users of Human Trafficking services.

Mobilization Programs – The Coalition has created mobilization tools and guidelines to help grassroots groups and has provided statewide training programs.

In preparation for Super Bowl 2014, the Coalition launched a series of initiatives to help raise awareness about the correlation between an increase in services by Human Trafficking victims and large sporting events.  Statewide education programs were held, 30 local programs, a hotel outreach mobilization that trained more than 200 volunteers and reached 600 hotels to ensure that protocols were set in place and staff were trained; implementation of a SOAP mobilization (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution); a High School Summit; launch of #HT Challenge, Stand Against Human Trafficking; and media outreach.

The Coalition was recognized by the White House Advisory Council for Interfaith and Community Partnerships and was invited to participate in a meeting of 100 organizations to discuss creating community involvement against human trafficking. We were one of the only local based groups invited to attend.

Advances the goals of the Jewish community relations field

As a broad-based, interethnic, and interfaith group of individuals and organizations, the Coalition is a classic model of Jewish community relations.  Facilitated by CRC Director Melanie Roth Gorelick, the Coalition is based out of the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.  Individuals from diverse backgrounds come together at the Jewish Federation headquarters in Whippany, NJ for Coalition meetings and programs, all working together towards a common goal.  In addition to the work of the full Coalition, members organize their own advocacy and educational efforts at their churches, synagogues, and other religious and community organizations in coordination with the Coalition.

This program advances the goals of the Jewish community relations field in many ways:

Interfaith – The creation and facilitation of this Coalition has been an excellent interfaith outreach tool.  Most religious faiths and Christian denominations participate as well as different community organizations.  It has allowed us to forge relationships with local members of religious streams that have been pro-BDS in the past and with whom we did not have relationships.  We are now building strong relationships and friendships, while we show the Jewish community’s commitment to human rights, justice and friendship.

Engagement of synagogues and community members – There are currently 75 synagogues in our catchment area.  The issue of ending modern day trafficking and the methodology of building a grassroots voice has created stronger relationships with the CRC and many synagogues. It has provided social action opportunities, implementation of “End Human Trafficking Shabbats” that was created by the CRC, and local initiatives and speakers.  This has strengthened the relationships with the synagogues and given them a common bond, which is nice as we have seen a split in some of the synagogues over the past few years, with some defining themselves as left and others as right on the issue of Israel.

The issue has also strengthened relationships with the Campaign staff within Federation.  CRC and Coalition members have been asked to speak to different groups including YLD, REX, Women’s Philanthropy, Jewish Women’s Foundation and others to show the good ideals that the Federation stands for and how people can be involved. It also keeps the CRC relevant and visible.

Public policy and strengthening relationships with legislators – The issue of ending Human Trafficking has been an excellent one to engage policy makers. Many doors have been opened and relationships made with policy makers, government officials, and law enforcement at the local and state levels.  The new law, Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act, was passed swiftly through our State legislature. We have been able to work with and build relationships with many new elected officials on both sides of the aisle.

Support to end slavery – It furthers a cause of the Jewish community to end slavery.  The Jewish community has always been on the cutting edge of abolitionist movements.  We are not only working on this issue in New Jersey but we hope that it will be modeled and/or strengthened across the country.

Inspires creative initiatives for other communities

This issue can definitely inspire creative initiatives for other communities.  Each community will face unique challenges in raising awareness and engaging in advocacy for human trafficking.  Our work to develop Stand Against Human Trafficking – to stand for 9 hours for each of the million people who are enslaved – on college campuses is one initiative of our Coalition, #HT Challenge is a social media initiative to take place leading up to and during the Super Bowl, our art and advocacy performances through exhibits, dance and theater has been impactful.  Educating at the community level brings out the creativity in all of us.

Could serve (or has served) as a model for other communities

We hope to serve as a model for other CRC’s and Jewish communal groups across the country.  We believe that the Jewish community should lead the fight against Human Trafficking.  To this end, we have written a JCPA Resolution that will be vetted at the 2014 Plenum

Encourages new ways of thinking and have the potential to energize the local Jewish community

The issue of fighting modern day slavery has energized the Jewish community with an important cause.  The Coalition members experience firsthand the power and impact of diverse individuals working together towards a common goal.  Through their work in the Coalition, new partnerships among members develop constantly and new programs and initiatives are created.  The Coalition has already energized the local Jewish community.  Several local chapters of national Jewish organizations, such as the National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Labor Committee, and Hadassah, in addition to the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations and Jewish Women’s Foundation of New Jersey, are all members of the Coalition and play an active role in educating the greater Jewish community about human trafficking and how to get involved.  In addition, synagogues are on board and the Federation campaign staff and women’s philanthropy are all show-casing this work.


About the Author


Jared Feldman