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Doug Emhoff, first Jewish spouse of a U.S. president or vice president, speaks at lighting of National Menorah

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Second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is the first Jewish spouse of an American president or vice president, on Sunday spoke at the annual lighting of the National Menorah to help mark the first night of Hanukkah. “Let us remember always, that Jewish history is American history,” he said.

Emhoff also echoed the recent sentiments of Vice President Kamala Harris, saying “we must fight antisemitism and hate of every kind, and call it out when we see it.” 

“Like so many of us gathered here today, my family members left Europe in search of safety and security,” Emhoff said. They came to the United States, amongst the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. They built a life here — they raised children, they opened businesses, they worshipped 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.”

Emhoff also highlighted the story of the holiday, saying that “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.”

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“The ancient Maccabees teach us that, in the face of the senseless, the selfless can prevail,” Emhoff said. “In the face of the powerful, the people can prevail. In the face of darkness, light can prevail.”

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Emhoff said he and Harris would be lighting a menorah at their house starting on Sunday evening. Earlier this month, Emhoff and Harris said they had affixed a mezuzah at the Naval Observatory, the vice presidential residence. It is the first time in history there has been a mezuzah at an executive residence.

Emhoff also posted on Instagram a few days ago that the tree had arrived at the Naval Observatory. 

The American Friends of Lubavitch, which ran Sunday’s event at the White House, also played a clip of President Biden speaking. “The truth is that Jewish heritage, Jewish culture, Jewish values are such an essential part of who we are,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s fair to say that Jewish heritage is American heritage. That’s who we are as a people. To me, that’s part of the miracle.”

Gabrielle Ake contributed to this report.

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