Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Personalization and Modern Application of Passover

Four Cups Exodus 6 6 to7 freedomDuring this Passover season, believers are called not only to a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt, but to a modern-day and personal connection:

Passover is rich in social justice themes. It is impossible to study the story of our redemption and not feel compelled to eradicate injustice in the world today. …

Torah commands us to teach our children, “It is because of what God did for me when I went forth from Egypt,” creating an immediate connection between the text and our lives today. (Pesach: A Season for Justice)

Through commemoration of the exodus, we are reminded of our status as strangers in the land. By placing ourselves into the story, we are challenged to remember what it was to be slaves and what God’s deliverance has meant for us. We also are challenged to see the ways in which slavery continues to exist, and to wrestle with modern-day injustice, oppression, and slavery.

The United Jewish Communities Rabbinic Cabinet’s “Matzah of Unity” reading reflects on some of the Passover elements and the connection to be drawn to our many obligations to work toward a better world:

…We dip into the salt water of tears — and remind ourselves to care for the oppressed.

We eat the bitter herbs — and sharpen our concern for the stranger.

We taste the matzah, the bread of affliction — and feel the memories of our servitude to Pharaoh.

We note the roasted egg, symbolic of the extra offering in the Temple in ancient days — and ask ourselves, what are our own sacrifices?

Passover is so real and tangible, because we not only taste our freedom, but we also resolve to work for the liberation of all people. It is a time to ask ourselves: what are we doing to care for those in need? …

While observance of Passover varies from household to household, there are some common observances that hold particular poignancy as we reflect on modern-day slavery.

Bread of Affliction

The reading concerning the Bread of Affliction not only provides the primary textual inspiration for feeding the hungry during Passover, but also calls for an end to slavery, which continues to exist around the world in various forms. It prompts diverse communities to join together, recognizing the common experience of slavery.

As we recall the scarcity for those fleeing Egypt, taking only what they could carry, including bread unleavened because there was not time to thoroughly prepare it, we are reminded of those fleeing modern-day slavery with only the clothes on their back, and their similar need for provisions today!

Four Cups of Wine

The four cups are derived from four expressions of redemption found in Exodus 6:6-7:

  1. “I will bring you out;”
  2. “I will deliver you;”
  3. “I will redeem you;” and
  4. “I will take you.”

Note the positive, redemptive focus of each phrase! Rabbis for Human Rights suggests the following four interpretations for the four cups:

  1. The First Cup: Freedom [within an adopted home]
  2. The Second Cup: Deliverance [in one’s promised home]
  3. The Third Cup: Redemption from Overwork and Underwork
  4. The Fourth Cup: Liberation from Slavery All Over the World

As we celebrate this Holy Week, let us not neglect its Passover roots and the call for us to deeply personalize God’s work of redemption. As we commemorate God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt, let us ask why so many people are still enslaved today, and what our role is in recognizing this reality and working to end it. Let us see in ourselves and everyone we encounter the image of God in which He created us, and do all in our power to see it fully restored.

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Taking a critical look at ourselves this Palm Sunday

Palm SundayIt can seem strange celebrating Palm Sunday sometimes, knowing that by the end of the week, these same people that hailed Jesus as king and celebrated and welcomed him to Jerusalem would call for his death.

It can teach us a lot about ourselves, however, if we are only willing to take that critical look.

It reminds us at Araminta of that part of our mission statement that challenges “each individual to recognize their personal contribution to a culture that distorts human dignity and worth.”

As we take a teachable heart posture, may we see in ourselves both those who welcome and those with the potential to be too easily swayed by the surrounding culture.

May we recommit, then, to seeing each person with the worth and dignity that God bestowed upon them, not allowing any distorted vision to interfere with this.

May we continue to shout “Hosanna” and open our arms, even when the world tells us there is nothing to celebrate nor welcome.

May we see the possibility of restoration for all, even as our Lord did.

May we see the HOPE of Easter morning even as we walk through the darkness that precedes it.

Testimony on Behalf of Expanded Vacatur Bill

Following is written testimony presented for hearings held March 8 and 10, 2016, in favor of expanding Maryland’s “vacating convictions” law, as it related to human trafficking:

On behalf of Araminta Freedom Initiative, I submit this testimony in support of SB 866 / HB 623 and respectfully urge a favorable report.

As a service provider for survivors of child sex trafficking and a member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, we know that too often victims continue to be criminalized as a result of being forced to engage in various activities for the financial benefit of their traffickers. This criminal record produces continued obstacles in obtaining employment, housing, education, and other critical services to full recovery and successful reintegration into mainstream society.

These obstacles for survivors of trafficking keep them trapped in poverty and vulnerable to continued exploitation, with them the additional risk of continued exploitation by a trafficker or the inability to exit the commercial sex trade. Survivors who were unjustly convicted of forced criminal activity deserve better.

This is why it is so important to expand Maryland’s “vacating convictions” law through the passage of SB 866 / HB 623. In 2011, Maryland led the way, becoming the second state in the country to enact such a law, but we have learned much since that early action

Over the past four years, Maryland’s vacatur law has proved inadequate in meeting the needs of Maryland’s survivors, the majority of whom have trafficking-related convictions other than prostitution, such as trespassing and drug possession. Additionally, Maryland is one of only two states in the country requiring the consent of the agency that prosecuted the victim before the victim can file a vacatur request.

SB 866 / HB 623 would remedy these significant legal gaps by expanding the post-conviction relief available to survivors of human trafficking who are already recognized as lacking the criminal intent to commit the crimes they were convicted of.

It is critical that we not only increase the number of convictions eligible for vacatur under MD Crim. Pro § 8-302, but also expand the impact of the law by explicitly including labor trafficking survivors, as well.

Araminta Freedom Initiative supports this bill because it will enhance the effectiveness of Maryland’s human trafficking framework by improving access to justice for survivors who have been criminalized as a result of their involvement with a trafficker.