'We must fight antisemitism and hate of every kind,' says Second Gentleman Emhoff

“Let us always remember that Jewish history is American history,” said Emhoff at the National Menorah Lighting in Washington.

 Second Gentleman Doug Ermhoff at the lighting of the National Menorah, November 2021 (photo credit: Sholom Srugo)
Second Gentleman Doug Ermhoff at the lighting of the National Menorah, November 2021
(photo credit: Sholom Srugo)

WASHINGTON - Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff said on Sunday that American Jews and Jews worldwide “have experienced and continue to experience hostility, discrimination and violence,” and added: “We must speak truth about this epidemic of hate.”

Emhoff attended the National Menorah Lighting, hosted by Chabad, at President’s Park South (the Ellipse). Emhoff was joined by White House Jewish liaison Chanan Weissman and Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology.

“The freedom 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 said.

“As the vice president said a few weeks ago, we must fight antisemitism and hate of every kind, and call it out when we see it,” he continued. “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,” he said.

“On this first night of Hanukkah, Jews around the world will light their menorahs in the windows of their homes – something the vice president and I will do later this evening,” he said. “As we light this menorah on the 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 always remember that Jewish history is American history,” Emhoff said. “Our values [are] American values.”

The tradition of the national menorah lighting dates back to the Carter administration in 1979. This year’s new menorah was made of recycled aluminum provided by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. Some 2,500 attendees listened to the US Air Force Band perform traditional Hanukkah songs. Representatives of several Jewish organizations, including William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents, attended the event as well. 

“Last year was a much smaller event because of COVID, and now we are bouncing back,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), who hosted the event.

“Every year, the White House is represented by a senior administration official. In fact, we had the privilege of hosting Joe Biden here in 2014 when he was vice president. I am delighted to host Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff here this year,” he said.

“This is one area in life when Left and Right can come together,” Shemtov said. “Even though administrations have changed between the parties, the celebration is constant, because at the end of the day, we need to bring people together even... – and especially when there is division, and like the menorah brings the branches from both sides to shine light towards each other.”

The White House is also expected to hold a Hanukkah reception on Wednesday. Earlier on Sunday, US President Joe Biden released a statement regarding the Jewish holiday. “Over these eight nights, Jews in the United States, Israel and around the globe will proudly celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights,” he wrote.

“At its core, Hanukkah recounts a story at the heart of the human spirit – one that is inherently Jewish and undeniably American,” the president’s statement reads.

“It commemorates how even the most fragile flame can sustain a tradition and nourish the soul of a people. It teaches us that even a little bit of light, wherever it is found, can dispel the darkness and illuminate a path forward. And it reminds us that whether it is the Holy Temple in Jerusalem or the temple of our democracy, nothing broken or profaned is beyond repair.”

Israel’s Ambassador to Washington Mike Herzog thanked Biden for his message. “Thank you for your kind words and years-long friendship,” he tweeted in response. “As we come together this Hanukkah to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, I look forward to working together to strengthen the alliance.”