With a series of meet-the-candidates meetings scheduled during the Jewish High Holidays, a mayoral candidate in Ramara is disheartened with the Ramara Chamber of Commerce.
Russ Cole, who is of Jewish faith, said the debates conflict with both Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday in the religion.
“They just scheduled all of them during the holidays,” Cole told OrilliaMatters.
He noted the holidays, and the days between them, are of great importance in the Jewish faith.
“The Jewish New Year is about a 10-day process where … you look inward, you explore, and then, after those 10 days, you wash it all away, and that washing it all away is the next holiday. It’s called Yom Kippur,” Cole explained.
“Yom Kippur is actually the holiest of Holy Holidays in the religion. Yom Kippur is the holiday where you fast … and it’s to cleanse the body, cleanse the soul, cleanse the mind of all the things you’ve just been processing for the last 10 days, and you start anew.”
The chamber scheduled five meetings between Sept. 27 and Oct. 6.
This year, Rosh Hashanah took place from Sept. 25 to 27, with Yom Kippur landing on Oct. 4 and 5.
A meeting originally scheduled for Oct. 4 has since been rescheduled to Oct. 2, following pressure from Cole and others.
Ramara has a sizable and growing Jewish community, Cole said.
Cole, who is visiting with family over the holidays, said he will only be able to participate in the Oct. 6 meeting.
“It’s like the week of Christmas; you get (it) off,” he said. “You’re just going to go to your family, and you have Christmas Eve with them.”
He hesitantly decided to bring the issue forward with the goal of broadening inclusivity and equity in the municipal election, and not specifically to advocate for people of Jewish faith.
“I never wanted to include my religion in this political candidacy race. It was very awkward,” Cole said. “I was reluctant to even tell the chamber I was Jewish.
“I would not want to put my flag in the ground and say this is a Jewish community problem. This is an individuality, inclusivity problem.”
He noted people of any religion deserve fair treatment, and he hopes his decision to advocate on his own behalf will inspire others — regardless of their backgrounds — to step forward and do the same when need be.
Cole said he requested the date of the meetings be changed, or that they be broadcast via Zoom, which he would have been able to “awkwardly” accommodate.
He also requested the chamber share its candidate questions so he could post his answers elsewhere.
The chamber has done neither, Cole said, who hopes other candidates will stand in solidarity with him.
“I’m probably going to lose the election because of this,” he said. “I don’t even have the questions. They’re not sending me the questions. I was thinking I could just post on YouTube.
“It makes me feel that the chamber … is more sighted towards a candidate than another, given that they’re not willing to give me an equal platform to compete in the campaign.”
Officials from the Ramara Chamber of Commerce did not respond to numerous requests for comment.