WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaking at the lighting ceremony of a massive menorah in front of the White House to mark the first night of Hanukkah, Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, said Thursday that American Jews are “feeling alone” and “in pain” as he denounced rising antisemitism in the U.S. and abroad, particularly amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Emhoff, the first Jewish person to be the spouse of one of the country's nationally elected leaders, highlighted fear in the Jewish community, moments before the menorah was lit on the Ellipse, just south of the White House.
Emhoff said he’s held conversations with representatives from across the Jewish community to see how they’re holding up amid the war, as the conflict in Israel and Gaza enters its third month,
’The common denominator of these conversations is that we’re feeling alone, we feel hated, we’re in pain,” he said. “Even as we face darkness today, I am hopeful,” Emhoff said. “The story of Hanukkah and the story of the Jewish people has always been one of hope and resilience.”
Speaking to the Jewish community, Emhoff said Biden, Harris and the entire administration “have your back.”
In his remarks, Emhoff criticized college presidents who testified on Capitol Hill this week, saying they “were unable to denounce calling for the genocide of Jews as antisemitic.”
“The lack of moral clarity is unacceptable,” he said. “Let me be clear, when Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or identity, and when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism and it must be condemned and condemned unequivocally and without context.”
Emhoff also spoke to the Biden administration’s support for Israel's military effort and its efforts to free hostages held since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and other militant groups.
The national menorah has been lit annually since 1979, with the event sponsored by American Friends of Lubavitch.
The Associated Press