Shehechiyanu! We can finally eat chocolate on Passover that’s certified not to have been made with trafficked child labor! Why is this so important?
Every Passover we gather as family and community to celebrate our people’s freedom. We are obligated to tell the story of the Exodus, our journey from slavery to liberation. As we celebrate this freedom during Passover, we are compelled to reflect on how freedom continues to be elusive for other people. Our history of slavery awakens us to the plight of the stranger, and to the alarming occurrence of modern-day trafficking and slavery. How can we celebrate our freedom, without recognizing that so many individuals still have not obtained theirs?
There is much documented evidence about the role of trafficked child labor in the cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and West Africa, where more than 50 percent of cocoa is grown and harvested. Hundreds of thousands of children work in the cocoa fields, many of whom are exposed to hazardous conditions where they: spray pesticides and apply fertilizers without protective gear, use sharp tools like machetes, sustain injuries from transporting heavy loads beyond permissible weight and do strenuous work like felling trees and clearing and burning vegetation.
A large number of these children have been trafficked, often taken from their communities without their family’s consent, and most of them do not attend school.
But we don’t have to eat chocolate tainted by child labor, especially as we celebrate our people’s freedom on Pesach. We can choose to purchase chocolate from companies that certify their supply chains through Fair Trade monitoring and certification, committed to eliminating child labor.
Equal Exchange produces soy-free (lecithin-free) chocolate. In 2013, Rabbi Aaron Alexander, then associate dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, gave a rabbinic ruling that specific chocolates can be eaten on Passover, and this year, they are also included on the Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly’s Approved for Passover 5777 list.
The gift of freedom our people received generations ago bestows upon us the obligation and responsibility to work for the liberation of all people. How can we fully celebrate our freedom without acknowledging millions of people today who are still forced to work, thousands of them young children who work in cocoa fields to bring us our delicious chocolate?
We each have the power and the obligation to free today’s slaves with a “strong hand and outstretched arm.” One powerful way is to choose fair-trade chocolate, grown with standards prohibiting child labor—especially on Passover.
Top photo courtesy of the Business & Human Rights Resources Centre