Emhoff battles antisemitism as historic ‘first’ on White Home group 

When Doug Emhoff made historical past as the primary second gentleman, he knew one other title — first Jewish partner of a U.S. president or vp — was simply as important.  

Emhoff has been at the epicenter of the White Home response to the latest rise in antisemitism across the nation.  

Throughout a Hanukkah celebration on the vp’s residence this week — the place a Holocaust survivor and rabbis recited the blessing as Emhoff and Vice President Harris lit the candles on the Menorah — the second gentleman used the chance to remind these in attendance in regards to the rising risk in opposition to the Jewish neighborhood.  

“We are able to’t normalize this. We have to communicate up and communicate out and name it out as effectively,” Emhoff stated on the celebration. “And anybody who’s not talking up and talking out and never taking motion will probably be known as out.” 

Emhoff, 58, a longtime leisure lawyer, earlier this month hosted a roundtable with Jewish leaders on combating the “fast rise” in antisemitism. Final month, he visited a kosher deli in Des Moines, Iowa, the place he talked to a rabbi about how a lot it means to them to reside proudly and brazenly as Jewish Individuals.  

He wrote an op-Ed in USA Right now on Rosh Hashanah about battling antisemitism and posed a query: “What sort of world can we wish to reside in?”  

On the roundtable — which got here on the heels of a information stories revealing that former President Trump had dined at Mar-a-Lago with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye, who has made antisemitic feedback — Emhoff acknowledged feeling “ache” due to the uptick in hateful acts and rhetoric in opposition to the Jewish neighborhood. 

“There may be an epidemic of hate going through our nation. We’re seeing a fast rise in antisemitic rhetoric and acts,” stated Emhoff. “Let me be clear: Phrases matter. Persons are not saying the quiet components out loud. They’re actually screaming them.”  

These near Emhoff say he has been an advocate for the Jewish neighborhood since assuming the position of second gentleman.  

When he moved into the vp’s residence final 12 months, he and Harris hung a Mezuzah on the door. In September, he met with the Nationwide Council of Jewish Ladies Board on the White Home.  

Emhoff additionally hosted a digital seder and made matzah with a bunch of fourth graders in Washington after which talked in regards to the significance of Passover traditions with one other class of scholars. 

“He may have legitimately stated, ‘I’m Jewish, I acknowledge I’m Jewish … however don’t count on me to take this up as my difficulty.’ However as an alternative, he did the precise reverse,” stated Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the particular envoy to watch and fight antisemitism on the Division of State. “He’s leaning into it. And he’s leaning into the difficult parts of it. I give him nice, nice credit score for doing this.”   

“I’m very gratified to have him concerned so brazenly and clearly and unequivocally and unashamedly,” Lipstadt added. 

Emhoff’s position additionally sends the sign that the White Home is taking antisemitism severely, stated Katherine Jellison, a professor of U.S. girls’s and gender historical past at Ohio College. 

“The timing of getting a Doug Emhoff within the place he’s in is fairly wonderful as a result of whoever is within the White Home at the moment, no matter their celebration, would want somebody to be the purpose individual on this, and to have somebody who’s a member of the neighborhood who’s going through this heightened discrimination play that position, I feel it’s very, very acceptable,” she stated. 

Emhoff, in the course of the roundtable, stated that he’ll use his platform to proceed the dialog. 

“So long as I’ve this microphone, I’m going to talk out in opposition to hate, bigotry and lies,” he stated. 

Katherine Sibley, director of the American Research Program at St. Joseph’s College, stated that persons are drawn to his feedback due to the non-public side he brings to them. 

“The place of first girl or second gentleman, these sorts of roles have company. We would name it tender energy, however to make use of this position is so important,” she stated. “He’s speaking about, ‘I’m in ache proper now.’ So many of those individuals have spoken out on behalf of others and he’s talking in his personal voice on behalf of others.” 

Other than his work on combating antisemitism, the second gentleman’s position basically has been coming into view extra incessantly.  

Emhoff final week visited a disaster providers middle to focus on the 988 psychological well being hotline forward of the vacations. In the course of the look, he acknowledged that holidays are “robust” and talked about the dying of Stephen Boss, also referred to as tWitch, who lately died by suicide on the age of 40. 

Emhoff earlier this month additionally met with a bipartisan group of 13 newly-elected mayors, together with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. 

As the primary second gentleman, he has sought to border his position as above the political fray.  

“This isn’t a crimson state or blue state or a political difficulty. This difficulty of psychological well being and suicide impacts everybody,” Emhoff stated earlier this month throughout a go to to the Group Disaster Providers Heart in Maryland. 

Like antisemitism, Emhoff’s work on psychological well being helps elevate the importance of the problem for the White Home. 

“Since Emhoff has turn into a fairly high-profile second partner, if this is a matter he desires to champion it’s going to carry automated consideration in ways in which some decrease wattage second spouses wouldn’t have been in a position to do,” Jellison stated.  

Emhoff’s excessive profile started when he made historical past as the primary second gentleman however has risen because of a number of elements which have made the general public fascinated about him, political observers say. 

“Many individuals haven’t been used to, maybe, a person who boosts his spouse a lot, who holds her up, who helps her. He’s turn into very a lot a draw on the marketing campaign path, he’s a fundraiser. It’s his method, his enchantment,” Sibley stated. 

On the Hanukkah celebration on the vp’s residence this month, Emhoff mirrored on the time when Harris purchased him a menorah throughout their first Hanukkah collectively in Los Angeles, a symbolic gesture acknowledging his religion.  

“She is aware of it’s essential to me,” Emhoff stated. “It’s essential to me as a Jew and all of us as a part of our faith and tradition.  

“As the primary Jewish individual married to a president or a vp, I perceive the burden of that accountability, the duty that that brings.”