Jewish Candidate Rejects Rosh Hashanah Forum

Jewish Candidate Rejects Rosh Hashanah Forum

Brandon Goldberg still hopes that Clark Atlanta University will change the forum date.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Brandon Goldberg is running for an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council.
Brandon Goldberg is running for an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council.

A Jewish candidate for the Atlanta City Council says that he will not participate in a pre-election forum because the event is scheduled during Rosh Hashanah.

Attorney Brandon Goldberg, a member of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, is running for an at-large seat on the city council.

The Clark Atlanta University forum, scheduled for 5 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8, is being hosted by CAU’s political science department and the Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy.

Rosh Hashanah, the start of the year 5782 in the Jewish calendar, begins at sunset Sept. 6. The holiday is observed for one day in Israel, but two elsewhere. The holiday ends at sunset Sept. 8, which is 8:31 p.m.

Goldberg announced his candidacy in September 2020, two months after filing candidacy papers with the city.

“I presume,” Goldberg told the AJT, that organizers of the forum were unaware of the Jewish new year observance. “I think it’s a bit ridiculous now that they know that they don’t reschedule. It’s 2021. They should have checked the calendar.”

“My hope is that as this situation becomes known publicly, that there’ll be pressure on them to change it and hopefully they will,” he said. He added that “the longer this goes, the less likely” is a date change.

Goldberg shared with the AJT his exchange of emails with Tammy R. Greer, an assistant professor of political science.

On June 11, Goldberg replied to Greer’s invitation, noting the conflict. “Therefore, I am unable to participate during the date and time selected,” he wrote. “As you know, there is a century-long tradition of HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] and the Jewish community standing by each other and supporting each other. This tradition is critical to who I am and my vision for Atlanta’s future. I ask that you consider changing the date of this forum to allow for Jewish participation.”

In her response the same day, Greer said, “We completely agree about our traditional relationship as communities.” However, because notifications for the event already had been sent, and to avoid disrupting the schedules of Clark Atlanta’s graduate students, the forum could not be rescheduled, she said.

“How can we find compromise?” Greer asked. “Could you find a representative to come in your place since we really want to ensure you and your platform are represented? Or if you let me know what time you will be able to participate, it may be feasible to accommodate the High Jewish Holiday of Rosh Hashanah by extending the time of the forum.”

On June 13, Goldberg informed Greer: “My Rabbi has advised me that Rosh Hashanah ends at 8:31pm on September 8. I also need to account for the time it would take for me to make my way to my car, travel to the University, park, and make my way to the specific venue. Barring traffic, I would not be able to join an event that begins any earlier than 9:30pm.”

On June 21 Greer replied: “The time is very late that you would be able to participate, which means that we would not be finished until close to 11pm. Is it possible for you to record a message for the forum or have someone from your campaign to represent you at the forum?”

Goldberg responded the same day: “I would like to have an equal opportunity to interact with the Clark Atlanta community on the same stage and at the same time as the other candidates in my race. Therefore, a representative or recording is not possible.”

Greer replied the next day: “We understand your position. We will continue to be in contact as the forum approaches. More specifically, I will be in touch at the beginning of July, at the earliest. Please continue to keep us in mind.”

Referring to the offer to send a campaign surrogate or a video presentation, Goldberg told the AJT, “Frankly, that’s not good enough. When it comes to dual opportunity, it’s not just intent; it’s outcome.”

If the event is not rescheduled “my spot will be empty.”

At this writing, CAU has not responded to the AJT’s request for further comment.

The incumbent Michael Julian Bond has held the Post 1 at-large seat since 2009. In addition to Goldberg, Bond is being challenged by Alfred “Shivy” Brooks, a teacher; Todd A. Gray, a diversity program leader and former member of the city ethics board; and Jereme Sharpe, a consultant.

Goldberg told the AJT that his top three issue priorities are public safety, housing equity and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

All three at-large posts are elected citywide, but the city is divided into three sectors for purposes of electoral contests. Goldberg lives in Midtown.

Should no candidate receive a majority of the votes cast in the Nov. 2 election, a runoff between the two candidates receiving the most votes will be Nov. 30.

Goldberg, 36, was a 2019 AJT “40 Under 40” selection. He is a graduate of Cornell University and the Emory University School of Law, and now works as an attorney for a medical device company.

Goldberg has held leadership positions in several community organizations. He served as co-chair of the American Jewish Committee’s regional ACCESS Atlanta, the young professionals’ division of the American Jewish Committee, and is on the steering committee of the AJC’s Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition.

He has been district captain of the Mid Fulton region of the Fulton County Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic Party of Georgia state committee. Goldberg is immediate past president of the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia, an organization of LGBTQ attorneys.

As his terms in some of these positions were ending, “I was looking for the next way to be involved” and decided to run for the city council, he said.

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