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Schultz writes: "... Women are often still the catalysts for change and liberation; yet, too many women around the world are still enslaved and oppressed - including the victims of rape and violence, those who are denied an education and those coerced into sex trafficking."

Women are still sold as slaves. (photo: Ira Gelb)
Women are still sold as slaves. (photo: Ira Gelb)

Passover 5773: Too Many Women Are Still Slaves

By Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Reader Supported News

26 March 13


very Passover, we gather with family and friends around the Seder table to read the inspiring foundational story of our people's liberation from slavery in Egypt. We tell and retell this story every year, and millennia later it informs who we are. There are many ways in which Judaism speaks so strongly to the themes of service and justice, but to me, there is none stronger than our own experience: Once we were slaves in Egypt, and now we are free. Distilled in this line, the sentiment is clear. Our tradition and history compel us to give back to our society, make the world a better place and ensure freedom for all.

This intimate connection between Judaism and social justice is why throughout American history the Jewish community - our community - has been a vocal advocate for the values of freedom and equality that make the United States the great country that it is. As a Jewish woman and a member of the U.S. Congress, I strive to bring that connection to bear on my work every day. We are all obligated to make those connections in our own way.

This Passover, I am particularly focused on the rights of women and girls, both in our own backyard and around the world. The Talmud teaches that the optimism and initiative of Jewish women ensured our redemption from slavery in Egypt (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 11b). And today, women are often still the catalysts for change and liberation; yet, too many women around the world are still enslaved and oppressed - including the victims of rape and violence, those who are denied an education and those coerced into sex trafficking.

The specter of violence against women looms large today. Millions of women in war-torn countries like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda don't move freely from place to place for fear of being raped - a fear created and exacerbated by soldiers who purposefully and disgracefully turn women's bodies into casualties of war.

Denying girls the education they need undermines their freedom as well. Let's be clear: meaningful freedom for women and girls will never be possible without the ability to access education and the social tools necessary to build a fruitful life. But barriers to girls' education are enormous worldwide. Women activists like the brave Mukhtar Mai of Pakistan receive death threats almost weekly for striving against the odds to educate young girls.

Sex trafficking is a global pandemic in parts of the world, and in Southeast Asia alone, 250,000 women are trafficked every year. Traffickers prey on women and their families who are vulnerable because they are forced to grapple with the grim daily realities of life in poverty. These women are bound by modern slavery - trafficked and abused, they languish without the freedoms and protections they deserve. Some are chained to beds, given just enough food and water to stay alive and have no way to protect their own physical and sexual health. We must fight to liberate these women and girls from the shackles of bondage - both physical and figurative - that keep them from freedom. As Passover reminds us, we must not rest until these women too, are free.

This month, as we prepare our Seder tables, we also celebrate Women's History Month and International Women's Day. These are both opportunities to pay tribute to the indelible contributions women have made worldwide, while rededicating ourselves to the plight of those women and girls who still need our help today. And every year at Passover, we draw from our people's own difficult past for the strength and courage to change the outcome of their future.

President Obama has said: "Promoting gender equality and advancing the status of all women and girls around the world remains one of the greatest unmet challenges of our time, and one that is vital to achieving our overall foreign policy objectives." We believe that all who understand that the story of gaining freedom continues to this day will support these goals. For women to be free, we must ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; pass the International Violence Against Women Act; and work tirelessly wherever we can to support global health, education, political participation, and women's empowerment.

Only when women everywhere can stand tall and strong together in peace and security can we confidently say: Once we were slaves, and now we are free.

American Jewish World Service embodies the natural harmony between Jewish faith and action, putting these values into practice every day. Working to protect the health and safety of women and girls is a vital part of our community's drive to make the world a better place. As Jews, our fundamental belief in freedom, justice and human rights requires that we work tirelessly to end the scourges of violence against women and forced child marriage, defeat those who would block girls who need and want to go to school and stop the practice of coerced sex trafficking.

Going forward, as we work together to bolster their sexual health and rights, we must not only protect, but empower, women and girls everywhere. By working together, we can ensure that the future we leave to our children is one of inclusion, equity, security, hope and freedom. This year, too many women are still slaves. Next year, may we all be free. your social media marketing partner


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+14 # brux 2013-03-26 13:16
Being the son of a woman who in the late 70's was a single mom with two kids, I am completely convinced and in sympathy with the situation of woman in this country and in the workforce, but I also see the fracture that polarizing these issues around gender, race or sexual preference creates, when it really should not.

All of these issues center around power, around class, and the power and class divisions are only getting worse and have been all of this time as we have addressed these issues around their specific interest groups.

I don't mean to de-emphasize women, but someone progressives, liberals, Americans, the middle class, men, women, black, white, red, yellow, brown, gay, straight, young and old all have to grow up and realize that there are common things that desperately need to be done that include everyone .... EVERYONE!
-45 # Above God 2013-03-26 13:24
Why Do Women Have Smaller Feet Than Men ? To Stand Closer To The Sink.
-7 # bmiluski 2013-03-26 14:10
Why do women have smaller feet than men? So they can stand closer to the men and be able to see their little "member".
+4 # Regina 2013-03-27 01:21
Clearly, the smallest organ in the male of our species is the brain. It atrophies at the onset of "adult" testosterone.
+8 # Sweet Pea 2013-03-26 14:41
Quoting Above God:
Why Do Women Have Smaller Feet Than Men ? To Stand Closer To The Sink.

I hope this was just "your funny" for the day, because to many of us women, it isn't funny because it is all too true.
+13 # 2013-03-26 13:30
Dear Ms. Schultz:

If my neighbor were making his daughters available for sexual favors to men of our neighborhood, I would not borrow money and give it to him to operate his household.

Therefore, why does Congress borrow money and give it to the very nations whose governments do very little about the sex trafficking of their female population ?

Borrowing money to give it away? HUH ?!
+12 # bmiluski 2013-03-26 14:12
Ms Wasserman Schultz does not need to look farther than her own backyard. There are women in THIS country who are not allowed to go out without being accompanied by men and must have their face covered. This, in the name of religious freedom....BAH! !!
+14 # DakotaKid 2013-03-26 14:59
Beautiful sentiments and behalf of a just cause. Now if only Debbie Wasserman Shultz, "as a Jewish woman and member of the US Congress" would also take up the cause of displaced Palestinians, at least half of whom are women...
+15 # LastLiberal 2013-03-26 16:07
Debbie, I agree with your sentiment, but you don't have to go far - just to Brooklyn - to find women as second rate citizens in Hassidic Communities. This phenomenon is on our doorstep everywhere with spousal abuse and the fact that today women still earn less in the same job.
+6 # Regina 2013-03-27 01:28
The only difference -- without a distinction -- between Hassidic Jewish women and Muslim women is the means of covering their heads -- it doesn't matter whether it's by a wig or a head-scarf. It also doesn't matter whether the outer garment is a dress from ankles to throat or a robe from ankles to throat. The second-classedn ess is the same.
-8 # fliteshare 2013-03-27 03:03
In the Netherlands, career prostitutes make more money than medical doctors.
And this is somehow slavery?

Why is it than, that the sexually frustrated, desert dweller, derived religions, get to rewrite the definition of slavery?
Last time I was in school, slavery had something to do with an inability to reap the rewards of your own labour. Nowhere was sex or trafficking mentioned as additional requirement.

If your concerns about slavery in the sex industry were genuine, you would vie to legitimize prostitution.
This would enable prostitutes to negotiate LEGALLY ENFORCIBLE CONTRACTS for "services rendered". Then, these girls are also no longer dependent on their pimps for protection and contract enforcement. Because these issues will henceforth be resolved by legitimate authorities. And now, all of a sudden, slavery is no longer part of the problem. Accomplished merely by emancipating the profession and it's workers.

So Please, don't pretend to have a problem with slavery while solely acting on your aversion of good sex. I, as man, am done with this pseudo feminist hypocrisy. You haven't empowered one woman yet. But the gest of your article will serve, to sabotage the emancipation of prostitutes all over the world. I'll guarantee you that.
+4 # amye 2013-03-27 08:38
Gee isn't it funny she didn't mention what we Americans did in our stupid wars on terror to women and children in Iraq or Afghanistan?? Was that because she voted in favor of those wars?? I don't know the answer, but I bet there is a strong probability she did since not many Congress people voted against those wars!
+1 # SMoonz 2013-03-27 14:14
You guessed correctly. Schultz is all for wars and obviously drones and these all definitely terrorize women.
Check out the video link below.
+1 # Gnome de Pluehm 2013-03-27 20:04
"Passover 5773: Too Many Women Are Still Slaves"

I tend to agree with you, I think; how many would be about right?

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