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Human Rights Shabbat: 10 December

The Prime Minister, Theresa May recently pronounced that modern day slavery is the ‘great human rights issue of our time.’ It’s certainly up there.

Of the topics that René Cassin, the Jewish human rights charity, is asked to talk to schools and youth movements about, modern day slavery is the most commonly requested topic. This is in some part because slavery permeates throughout the Jewish story – be it when the Israelites were enslaved or when Jewish text regularly discusses the treatment of slaves.

So, there can be no better choice of topic for this year’s Human Rights Shabbat than the theme of Modern Day Slavery. This year’s Shabbat falls on World Human Rights Day – 10 December, the date in 1948 that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted – making this the perfect opportunity to engage your community with current human rights issues.

We all think we know what slavery is. It is a thing of the past, abolished by William Wilberforce in 1833. But we could hardly be more wrong:

• more people are trafficked today than were enslaved in the entire history of the Transatlantic slave trade
• slavery and human trafficking is the second largest criminal activity in the world, second only to drug smuggling, netting $36 billion a year for the traffickers
• here in the UK, the Home Office estimates that around 13,000 men, women and children are subjected to modern day slavery

Today, here in the UK – thousands abused, exploited, used and re-used. Modern Day Slavery means domestic slaves, sex slaves and child slaves. Vulnerable and desperate people, cruelly deceived by traffickers into believing they are being taken to a place of safety and security – only to find, too late, a very different and terrible reality.

Human Rights Shabbat is an opportunity to engage with this urgent and vital issue. You can celebrate Human Rights Shabbat in whatever way is appropriate to you – be that through sermons, text studies, programmes for younger children, connections to expert NGO speakers or information on how to get involved with specific issues and further campaigning.

We already have a record number of communities signed up for this year’s Human Rights Shabbat and we would love for you to join us.

If your community is interested in taking part you can sign up to Human Rights Shabbat 5777 today by emailing and registering interest or go to the René Cassin website for more information.

Sam Grant, Campaigns and Programmes Manager, René Cassin

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