Human trafficking is a problem in the area, according to panelists who addressed the Greater Cleveland Chapter of Hadassah Nov. 13. About 125 people attended the Wednesday presentation, “Human Trafficking: It’s not Just Another Community’s Problem, It’s in OUR Community,” at the Siegal facility in Beachwood.
Carole Rendon, first assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said human trafficking is an issue throughout the region, citing the Ariel Castro case in which a Cleveland man held three women captive for around 10 years.
Rendon added individuals should speak up if they notice any red flags or warning signs, such as a young girl walking with a much older man. She also advised parents to monitor their children’s use of computers and other communications devices.
Doron Kalir, clinical professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, related human trafficking to ancient slavery and quoted from the Torah.
He noted that in 2006 Israel received one of the lowest rankings from the U.S. for its efforts to combat human trafficking. Israel promptly took action by passing a law against trafficking and developing protection services, and recently received one of the highest rankings issued by the U.S.
Renee Jones, president, CEO and founder of the Renee Jones Empowerment Center, discussed the risk of re-victimization young girls face and said it is imperative services are available for them. She also noted the role heroin is playing in the increase of trafficking and said that heroin addiction can be used as a form of control over trafficking victims.
One audience member asked how to help girls who are trafficked but do not feel like victims.
“Love doesn’t hurt, the girls need to know the difference,” Jones said. “The girls often don’t even know the names of their traffickers, who use nicknames.”
The local Hadassah chapter also used the occasion to honor Ruth Popkin of New York one her 100th birthday. Among the tributes in the program notes: “As the president of national Hadassah for three terms, as president of Jewish National Fund for two terms and the first woman president off the World Zionist Congress, she transformed the potential and the effectiveness of the organizations and built bridges among them. As an activist and pragmatist, she helped demonstrate the empowerment of women to make changes in major health care, social justice, education and options for youth to develop and identify with Zionism and democracy.”