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Redistricting Concerns Local Jewish Community

By Matt Wilhalme, 7/28/2011

Some Groups Worry About Under Representation


Following the 2010 census, the California Redistricting Commission (CRC) must redraw the lines for California Congressional Districts, Asse-mbly Districts and the State Board of Equalization, according to the Voters First Act which was passed in 2008. Over the past several months, the commission has sought input from the public at numerous public meetings on how best to draw the lines. The power to draw the lines used to be in the hands of elected officials, but now it rests with a commission of 14 members.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance could be on the border of two separate districts. (photo by Matt Wilhalme)

However, at least one group has come away feeling under represented by the new proposed boundaries, and has filed a complaint and proposal of their own with the CRC.

“We have always had this problem during redistricting, but we didn’t have a voice … it took us a while to figure out what was going on, the process, and we figured we should put in our two-cents,” said Irving Lebovics, chairman of Agudath Israel of California. “In the Assembly you need a champion.”

On Friday, July 29, the commission is expected to release the final maps, which will enter a public review period before the commission votes to adopt the maps on Aug. 15.

At the Simon Wiesenthal Center at 1399 Roxbury Dr., Rabbi Meyer May has been given particular cause for concern because the center’s campus has been divided into two different assembly districts. The line in question would run the length of Pico Boulevard, also dissecting the Pico-Robinson community – north of Pico Boulevard in one district, and to the south, another.

“I have the privilege of having two different Assembly districts, one representing my left hand and another my right hand,” May said. “But even as the plan is set to correct some of these anomalies in the system, we don’t think it should be at the expense of the Jewish community.”

A rendering shows how the borders of the new Assembly Districts may be drawn, however, no numbers have been assigned yet to the districts. (photo illustration courtesy of Google Maps)

Lebovics noted that the Orthodox Jewish community is made up of more than 80,000 people who live mostly in the Pico-Robertson area, where more than 25 Orthodox synagogues and 15 other service organizations dot the streets. However in each map that has been submitted, more than 16 synagogues in the Pico-Robertson, Beverlywood and Century City area have been separated into a separate district. Lebovics said those areas should not be set apart because members of the community use services in the Fairfax and Pico-Robertson areas like the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Olympia Medical Center, as well as numerous Jewish day schools.

However, both Lebovics and May found their trips to the CRC’s public meetings, where members of the community can submit comments and proposals, unsuccessful.

“I am here representing portions of the Jewish community that are concerned about the splitting of the Westside Orthodox Jewish community,” Lebovics said in a letter submitted to the commission. “These groups have submitted letters on their own and we attempted to send people to speak at the Culver City hearing, but the lines were so long and many of us have young children to look after so we dropped off written comments. Instead of deluging you with letters, we have sent you letters from specific leaders on behalf of the community. Those leaders have emphasized the importance of uniting two communities: Pico-Robertson/Beverlywood and the Fairfax-Hancock Park-Miracle Mile area.”

After the meeting in Culver City, where a line of more than 300 people deterred the testimony of some members of the community, Lebovics has made trips to Sacramento to present his views to the commission.

The first person to raise questions about how the CRC planned to address the Jewish community came from Andrew Lachman, who has filed his letter of intent to run for the assembly seat for the 42nd District.

“If you don’t testify as to where the ‘community of interest’ is, then the commission can only assume based on their personal knowledge, which may or may not be accurate,” Lachman said. “It tends to favor those who have been actively engaged in the process, saying something in person has a lot more impact than sending an email.”

While Lebovics and May have organized a group to respond to the redistricting process, other members of the Jewish community feel Jewish leaders have not done enough to protect their interests.

“Where is the organized Jewish community? They seem to be sleeping at the wheel,” said Stan Treitel, a community activist.

“I think the Jewish community in general assumes that the status quo is going to be good,” May said. “They look toward leadership when things are amiss, which is what we are doing now. We are letting them know that there is going to be a change and the leaders need to recognize there will be a cost for this change, and our view that is to the detriment of the Jewish community.”





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