Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, spoke at the annual National Menorah lighting ceremony in Washington DC on Sunday.
Emhoff, 57, is the first Jewish spouse of a US president or vice president and was chosen as the special guest to speak at this year’s lighting, a tradition that started in 1979.
In his speech, he noted the importance of Jewish history in American culture as well as putting an end to anti-Semitism in the modern world.
Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, was chosen as this year’s guest speaker at the annual National Menorah lighting ceremony in Washington DC
‘Let us remember always that Jewish history is American history; our values, American values,’ Emhoff said in his speech
This year’s ceremony, a tradition started in 1979, was the first to feature a Jewish spouse of a US president or vice president
‘On this first night of Hanukkah, Jews all around the world are going to light their menorahs in the windows of their homes — just like the vice president and I are going to do later tonight at our home here in DC,’ Emhoff said in his speech.
‘As we light this menorah on this lawn of the free, let us rededicate ourselves to doing everything we can to shine a light on hate, so we can put an end to hate.’
‘Let us remember always that Jewish history is American history; our values, American values,’ he added.
Emhoff also talked about the history of Hanukkah which had been created by a group of Jewish warriors known as The Maccabees in 165 BC.
The eight-night tradition had been conceived following the victory against the Greek-Syrian army and commemorated the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
The menorah symbolizes the ‘miracle’ behind the creation of the holiday. It centers on the story of a jug of oil that was meant to last just one day but which ultimately lit the temple’s menorah for eight.
‘On this first night of Hanukkah we celebrate the history of a people who do not simply carry on in the face of tragedy, but ones who are committed to their faith, proud of their tradition, and grateful for the many miracles and blessings in our lives.’
‘The ancient Maccabees teach us that, in the face of the senseless, the selfless can prevail.
‘In the face of the powerful, the people can prevail. In the face of darkness, light can prevail.’
In his speech, Emhoff noted the importance of Jewish history in American culture as well as putting an end to the presence of antisemitism in the modern world
Louis Mayberg of the National Menorah Council (left), Rabbi Levi Shemtov (left center), Rabbi Abraham Shemtov (center), entrepreneur Brock Pierce (right center), and Rabbi Menachem Shemtov (right) light the National Menorah
Emhoff had also touched on the history of European Jews who had migrated over into the US in search of a better life.
‘Like so many of us gathered here today, my family members left Europe in search of safety and security,’ he said.
‘They came to the United States, among the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. They built a life here: raised children, opened businesses, worshiped at synagogues. ‘
‘And yet, we know, the freedom that my family members, that American Jews everywhere, have yearned for and championed … the freedom that our nation promises to all those who live and worship here … That freedom has, at times, been undermined by hate.’
He used the rest of his platform to speak on the anti-Semitism that remains prevalent in both the US and across the wider world.
Emhoff and Harris lit their menorah on Sunday night to celebrate Hanukkah and even installed a mezuzah at the Naval Observatory to honor the ‘second gentleman’s’ Jewish faith
President Joe Biden previously spoke at the ceremony in 2014
‘As the vice president said a few weeks ago, we must fight anti-Semitism and hate of every kind, and call it out when we see it.
‘We know that this hate is horrible but not at all new, a fact that the vice president and I were reminded of at Yad Vashem in Israel a few years ago, and at the Shoah Memorial in France that I visited just weeks ago.
‘But we also know that the story of Hanukkah is the history of a people who do not simply persevere in the face of tragedy, but ones who are committed to their faith, proud of their tradition, and grateful for the many miracles and blessings in our lives. And on this first night of Hanukkah, that is what we celebrate.’
As well as lighting a menorah, Emhoff and Harris also installed a mezuzah, a piece of parchment filled with verses from the Torah contained in a glass case, at the Naval Observatory.
President Joe Biden had also previously spoken at the lighting ceremony in 2014.
‘The truth is that Jewish heritage, Jewish culture, Jewish values are an essential, such an essential part of who we are,’ Biden said.
‘It’s fair to say that Jewish heritage is American heritage. That’s who we are as a people.’