Good Afternoon; my name is Aaron Welcher; today, I am representing the Jewish Community Relations Council, an organization that has advocated in these halls for 80 years. Firstly, on behalf of the Jewish community, I would like to thank Speaker Huston for working with JCRC to host today as another public hearing to respect Yom Kippur – which takes place until tomorrow evening.
The Jewish community, like all communities, is not a monolith, similar to the constituents our elected officials serve; I’m positive each legislator can empathize with the challenge of representing many voices.
Truthfully, my job would be a lot easier if I ignored the voices I didn’t agree with or “cut them” away from being represented. That is not how a Democratic system functions – we are a better organization because of it, not despite it, much like how our Statehouse should function.
The proposed U.S. Congressional district map splits the Jewish community. In 2017 we did a scientific Jewish community population study, which found the two major population hubs of the Jewish community falling in the Washington township school district and the Carmel-Clay School districts. How the proposed maps are drawn, today, the 5th and 7th congressional districts split the Jewish community and its constituents. It divides the community’s population and away from our communal organizations, like mine, the Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis. Most of the temples are not in the same district as half of our community.
This washes away our voice in both districts. Democrat or Republican, this harms the Jewish Community of Central Indiana – one that is already a minority community in this State and poorly represented in the halls of our elected officials.
If this is happening to the Jewish community, I must ask what other communities will be harmed too? All because of a rushed process that has shown a clear lack of understanding of how these newly drawn maps minimize votes and silence voices.
As mentioned, tomorrow is Yom Kippur; over the past week, Jews have been working to be written in the book of life. By no means does this body hold that holy power, but the irony isn’t lost on me that we are also discussing maps being written and drawn; ones that will impact all Hoosiers and their lives for the next ten years or so – the “maps of life” if you will.
Our electoral maps affect all aspects of our lives from healthcare, religious freedom, lgbtq+ rights, education, immigration, racial justice, gender, and the economy – and so much more.
I ask today that the process be slowed down: The public, community organizations, leaders in all sectors need to be presented with clear data that answers
- How were the maps drawn
- What was and was not considered in how the lines were drawn?
- How will these maps impact various communities?
Aaron Welcher is the Communications and Advocacy Associate for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. He has represented the Jewish community in the redistricting coalition, All IN for Democracy. He gave public testimony on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. You can take action, read our redistricting newsletter (links to the maps included inside), or view the public hearings.