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Charge Justice Dept. Behind Redistricting That Splits Hasidic Community in Brooklyn

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Federal District Court Judge Walter Burchhausen has reserved decision on a charge by Hasidic Jews that the newly-drawn state assembly district lines that divide in half their community of 35,000 persons in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section discriminates against them in favor of Blacks and should be thrown out as unconstitutional

Nathan Lewin, attorney for the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, an umbrella group for more than 100 Jewish groups in the area, charged Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice had “strong-armed” the State Legislature to make the Hasidim the “victims of a racial gerrymander” by insisting that the new 57th Assembly district in Brooklyn be at least 65 percent Black to insure the election of a Black assemblyman. During the day-long testimony, Richard Scolaro, executive director of the legislative committee that drew up new lines for 28 legislative and congressional districts in Brooklyn and Manhattan, admitted that the “sole reason” the Hasidim could not be kept in one district was this Justice Department demand.

Scolaro said the only way to provide a Black majority in the district was to include 15,000 Hasidim in the 56th Assembly District which is now 80 percent Black making the 57th 65 percent instead of 61.5 percent Black.

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