LRC Testimony, Temple Sinai

Temple Sinai 5505 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15217 Dear Chairman Nordenberg and Members of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, Temple Sinai is a Reform Jewish congregation located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1946, the congregation is made up of 700 households comprising over 1500 individuals. Our members view participation in civic affairs, such as voting, to be a sacred duty, evidenced by the fact that over 94% of our congregants voted in the 2020 presidential election. Temple Sinai is a member of the Pennsylvania Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism (RAC-PA). We are one of 40 synagogues comprising about 40,000 individuals across the Commonwealth who are united in advocating for fair and racially equitable legislative maps. Jewish sacred legal text teaches that “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 equal and adequate representation. We feel that in its House map, particularly, the LRC made significant progress toward the goal of equal and adequate representation. Statewide the plague of partisan gerrymandering is reduced, and the number of competitive districts is increased. In Allegheny County the LRC House map provides three “opportunity” districts, in which the minority population, predominantly African-American, has a fair opportunity to elect a minority representative, or at least a representative obligated to be responsive to minority concerns. We thank you and urge you not to backtrack from this progress. Unfortunately the proposed Senate map does not reflect the progress made with the House map. While Pennsylvania’s population has shifted significantly over the last ten years, declining in rural and western communities and growing in more central and eastern cities, the LRC’s Senate map does not adequately represent these shifts. In Southwest and Central Pennsylvania, the map draws many districts with populations significantly below what is required, while in Southeastern Pennsylvania several districts are drawn with populations larger than required to achieve equal representation. This means that individual voters in urban, Southeastern Pennsylvania have less clout. These deviations are significant, favoring rural areas and ignoring the changes that should have taken place due to the reallocation of prisoners that was voted on earlier last year. 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 Pennsylvania. We would like to express our gratitude to the LRC for your hard work and your efforts to improve the redistricting process. Thank you for holding hearings and making the process more transparent than in decades past. We are especially grateful for your consideration and attention to racial equity. It is heartening to see maps that reflect the growth in communities of color and give minority voters more representation than in years past. 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. We urge you to reject partisan pressure to backslide on the improvements to ending partisan gerrymandering and creating opportunity districts in the House and to make necessary changes to Senate and certain House districts. Thank you. Respectfully yours, Daniel J. Fellman Alison Yazer Brianna McDonough Senior Rabbi President Chair, Social Action Committee