RAC-PA Clergy: Maximize Racial Equity

Dear Chairman Nordenberg and Members of the Legislative Reapportionment Committee, We, the undersigned Jewish clergy of Pennsylvania, write to provide our testimony on the proposed LRC House and Senate Legislative Maps. We are united under the umbrella of the Pennsylvania Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC-PA), the Reform Movement's statewide faith based social justice arm. We work with 40 Synagogues and multiple other faith communities across Pennsylvania representing about 40,000 Reform Jews. RAC-PA was founded in the spring of 2020 to work for a world in which Reform Jewish values are reflected in social policy through education, advocacy, and activism. We believe that a fair redistricting process ensures that we, the voters, elect our representatives, not that our representatives decide who should vote for them. Jewish sacred legal text teaches “a ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted.” Our faith calls us to advocate for maps that will provide all Pennsylvanians, especially marginalized groups, and racial minorities, with adequate representation. Our position as communal leaders and counselors compels us to stand up for the right to equal representation for all Pennsylvanians. We would like to express our gratitude to the LRC for your hard work and efforts to improve the redistricting process. Thank you for holding hearings and making the process more transparent than in years past – for creating opportunities for the community to be consulted. We are especially grateful for your consideration and attention to racial equity reflected in the proposed maps. Although the State House maps makes important strides toward reflecting the growth in communities of color in cities across the Commonwealth and give minority voters more representation than in years past, there is still room for improvement. We urge you not to give in to partisan pressures to backslide on the improvements toward ending gerrymandering and creating opportunity districts in the House. We also recommend some necessary changes to the Senate maps so that they so reflect a commitment to racial equity. We have been working in partnership with black, indigenous and people of color communities organized by PA Voice and with Fair Districts as they map their communities, and we share the concerns and suggestion of our partners. In Lancaster County, the growth in the Latino community is not reflected in the proposed maps. We echo the concern of our Latino community partners and propose that HD 50 district boundaries be altered to create a district where the citizens of voting age population are majority minority. Berks County has seen large Latino and Black population growth, and we are concerned that the maps as drawn would unfairly dilute the Latino vote in Berks County in a way that is not VRA compliant. Our Jewish community in Allegheny County is deeply tied and committed to our relationship with our Black community partners. We uplift their gratitude for the strides made in the proposed maps. We also share their concerns about Voting Rights Act compliance there and the potential to make improvements by increasing the number of majority minority districts based on citizens of voting age population. Our partners at PA Voice proposed Allegheny County maps with 3 House districts that have majorities comprised of people of color based on total population, 2 of which would have a majority of eligible voters of color. The LRC maps have two districts with a majority people of color and only one district when voting age population is taken into account. PA’s population has shifted significantly over the last ten years, declining in rural areas, and growing in and around cities. The LRC’s Senate map does not adequately represent these shifts. In Southwest and Central PA, the map draws many districts with populations significantly below what might be expected, while in Southeast PA, several districts are drawn with populations larger than one would expect. This means that individual voters in Southeast PA have less clout. The Senate map distributes the population inequitably, penalizing urban residents and minority communities. We urge you to correct this malapportionment and vote dilution by creating more districts in Southeastern PA. In the proposed Senate maps, Allentown is unnecessarily divided, minimizing the ability of that city’s growing Hispanic population to utilize its electoral power. We urge you to fix this injustice by keeping Allentown intact in a district drawn to maximize Latino participation in Lehigh County. We are committed to continue working with our partners across the commonwealth and with our legislators to ensure fair and racially equitable legislative districts and to protect voting rights for all Pennsylvanians once redistricting is complete. We are paying close attention to the final map release and trust that you will follow through with your commitment to creating minority opportunity districts and to taking community comments into account. Thank you for your consideration of our testimony. Sincerely, Rabbi Beth Kalisch, Beth David Reform Congregation, Montgomery County Rabbi Shoshanah Tornberg, Old York Road Temple - Beth Am, Montgomery County Rabbi Daniel Swartz, Temple Hesed, Lackawanna Couny Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum, Congregation B'nai Harim, Monroe County Rabbi Michelle Pearlman, Beth Chaim Reform, Chester County Rabbi Dr. Mira Wasserman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Montgomery County Rabbi Robert Leib, Old York Road Temple - Beth Am, Montgomery County Rabbi Jill Maderer, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Philadelphia County Rabbi James A. Gibson, Temple Sinai, Allegheny County Rabbi Bruce L. Gottlieb, Sons of Israel, Clearfield County Rabbi Daniel Fellman, Temple Sinai, Allegheny County Rabbi Alan D. Fuchs, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Montgomergy County Rabbi Greg Marx, Congregation Beth Or, Montgomery County Rabbi Mayer Selekman, Temple Sholom, Delaware County Rabbi Aaron Meyer, Temple Emanuel of South Hills, Allegheny County Cantor Faryn Rudnick, Main Line Reform Temple, Montgomery County Rabbi Leah Berkowitz, Congregation Kol Ami, Montgomery County Rabbi David Straus, Main Line Reform Temple, Montgomery County Rabbi Eric J Lazar, Temple Brith Achim, Montgomery County Rabbi Lance Sussman, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Montgomery County Rabbi Stacy Rigler, Temple Sholom in Broomall, Delaware County Rabbi Brian K. Beal, Montgomery County Rabbi Ariel Milan-Polisar, University of Pennsylvania Hillel, Philadelphia County Cantor Michal Gray-Schaffer, Congregation B'nai Abraham, Butler County Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Philadelphia County Rabbi Eric Mollo, Temple B'nai B'rith, Luzerne County