Rosh Hashanah is about a simple question: What kind of world do we want to live in?

On Rosh Hashanah, the memories – the sights, smells and sounds – all come rushing back to me. My family gathering at my grandmother’s house, in Brooklyn, as she cooks the brisket in the kitchen. The warm challah awaiting us on the table. The spread of cut apples and honey. The talk of what we hope will be a year of sweetness, possibility and joy.

It was in the course of these annual traditions, every Rosh Hashanah, where I initially came to understand the meaning of the High Holidays and grasped the importance of this time of introspection. Rosh Hashanah is an important time to reflect and recount on the good and the bad of the past year.

No one should have to worry about violence when worshipping how they choose

Last year, Kamala and I affixed the first mezuzah on the doorposts and hosted the first Passover seder at the vice president’s official residence. As we entered this new year, I asked multifaith college students to join me at our home to discuss the meaning of Rosh Hashanah.

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff.
Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff.

We talked about values, beliefs and what we will recommit ourselves to in this new year. I was inspired by their intentions to stand up for justice, to serve their communities and to listen to their fellow neighbors.

I shared with the group my plan to recommit to fighting against hate and antisemitism. No one should have to worry about violence when worshipping how they choose.

Opinion alerts: Get columns from your favorite columnists + expert analysis on top issues, delivered straight to your device through the USA TODAY app. Don't have the app? Download it for free from your app store.

Survivors' courage and strength continue to inspire

During a trip to Pittsburgh in June, Kamala and I met with Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers from the Tree of Life synagogue, where a horrific antisemitic assault stole the lives of 11 innocent people in 2018.

We have also met with Ruth Cohen, who was born in Mukachevo, Czechoslovakia, in 1930. She was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and her family members, including her mother, brother and cousins, were murdered during the Holocaust. Seeing their continued courage and strength impacted me.

More: Antisemitism surges on America's far left and far right

More: Martin Luther King taught us how Jews and Muslims can live together

We need to fight antisemitism in all its forms. We can do that by raising awareness and continuing to amplify our voices. As we look forward to the new year, we must continue working toward building an inclusive society for all that is free of bigotry and bias, and commit ourselves to combating antisemitism and hatred wherever it exists.

Rosh Hashanah is about asking a simple yet profound question: What kind of world do we want to live in? I hope that you will take time with your families and loved ones to reflect on the past, and recommit to focusing on an issue that will help to make the world we live in a little sweeter.

From our family to yours, "shana tovah u’metuka" – may you have a happy, healthy and sweet new year.

Second gentleman of the United States Douglas Emhoff.

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: On Rosh Hashanah, I'm recommitting to fight hate: Douglas Emhoff