Nov. 27, 2013Council Member Ellen Cohen

This week, Houston celebrates the unusual convergence of two holidays: for the first time in 125 years, Thanksgiving will overlap with Hanukkah. “Thanksgivukkah,” as the dual-holiday is being called, gives us a rare opportunity to reflect on the themes that these days share: freedom from oppression, and the giving of thanks.

Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday that celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt against the Greek Empire. The Talmud describes Hanukkah as a “holiday of thanks giving,” since it honors the unlikely victory of a small band of Jewish rebels, called the Maccabees, who overcame vastly larger armies in a fight for religious freedom.

Thanksgiving, by comparison, traces its roots to a celebratory feast at Plymouth in the early 1600s. In the holiday tradition, Native Americans shared a bountiful harvest with Pilgrims who had fled England in pursuit of religious freedom. Though these holidays took place over 1,500 years and over 5,500 miles apart, they both honor a group of oppressed people who overcame great odds to achieve freedom from subjugation.

This week, we took a timely step forward in furthering freedom from oppression in our city. Mayor Parker, Police Chief McClelland, and I announced that the Houston Police Department (HPD) will create its first ever Human Trafficking Unit. Sixteen of the city’s largest sexually-oriented businesses will provide over $1 million annually to the Human Trafficking Abatement Fund to finance an HPD unit dedicated to fighting modern-day slavery.

I am hopeful that the City of Houston will no longer be known as a hub of human trafficking but as the center of the fight to eradicate it.

Best regards and happy holidays,