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For We Were Slaves

For We Were Slaves

This year, as I sit at a Passover seder and listen to the Magid, the telling, I will remember that I was a slave in the land of Egypt. I will remember the desperation and hopelessness of a life without autonomy, the humiliation of back-breaking, unending work, the mind-numbing knowledge that my children would be no better off than I.

I will remember that Moses once said "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" I will remember Moses' fear, his disbelief, that the superpower of the Egyptians could not be conquered by one person simply refusing to bend.

I will also remember that despite his trepidation, when God called "Moses! Moses!" Moses said, "Here I am." Moses heeded the call of conscience and of the divine will and stood as a shield before the children of Israel, refusing to bend or compromise until Pharaoh let our people go.

I will remember all these things and I will remember that today, there are more people living in slavery than ever before in human history. I will think of the insidious forms slavery takes in the modern world, from debt bondage to forced prostitution and I will think of human trafficking, the modern slave trade. I will think of those who are dehumanized and made to live a wrenching, debasing existence with little hope for a better life for themselves or their children or their children's children. I will remember that there are slaves in Guinea, Russia, Israel, India and here in the land of the free, in the United States.

I will sometimes ask myself "who am I, that I can improve the lives of these people all over the world?" I will hope that whenever I feel my conscience gently but inexorably tugging at my attention and calling my name, I can say "here I am" and do what I must to ensure that no other human being lived the life I lived when I was a slave in Egypt.

This year, at my seder, I will read a story from the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which presents the issue of modern slavery in broad terms as well as in the stories of individual men, women and children who have lived it. You can do the same, or watch  "Top Ten Facts About the "S" Word" from with your family (may be troubling to very young viewers):


And take action with the organization Free the Slaves, with Atzum, an Israeli organization which works to combat human trafficking, or with our alert for legislation meant to raise awareness of human trafficking.

Please contact me at 202.387.2800 with questions, and Chag Sameach. Next year, may we be closer to a world in which all are free.

Published: 3/29/2010

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