The first Jewish wife of a president or vice president, Emhoff publicly emphasized various tenets of his faith while his wife was in office.
“On this first Hanukkah night, Jews around the world will be lighting their menorahs at the windows of their homes – just like the vice president and I will be doing later tonight at our homes here in DC,” Emhoff said. during the ceremony. “As we light this Menorah on this Lawn of Freedom, let us renew our commitment to do all we can to shed light on hate, so that we can end hate. “
“Let us always remember that Jewish history is American history; our values, American values, ”he continued.
Earlier this month, Emhoff announced that he and Harris affixed a mezuzah to the vice presidential residence in a private ceremony in October. This moment marked the first time that an executive home bore the permanent sign of the holiness of a Jewish home.
The tradition of lighting dates back to 1979, when President Jimmy Carter was in office. But it was President Ronald Reagan who officially designated the candelabra the National Menorah.
Then-vice president Joe Biden, himself deeply religious, spoke at the ceremony in 2014.
“The truth is, Jewish heritage, Jewish culture, Jewish values are an essential, so essential part of who we are,” Biden said at the time, donning a black kippah. “It is fair to say that the Jewish heritage is the American heritage. This is who we are as a people. “
The lighting serves as a catalyst – kicking off the “Festival of Lights” across the country and the world, according to the National Menorah website.
The holiday ceremony draws tens of millions of viewers, they say, cementing it as a symbol for the start of the Hanukkah celebrations.
“In this way, we reaffirm the celebration of our freedom, inspired by the historic and current victory of law over force, light over darkness, and understanding and justice over intolerance and sectarianism,” indicates the website of the National Menorah.
“As the vice president said just a few weeks ago, we need to fight anti-Semitism and hatred of all kinds, and call it out when we see it,” Emhoff said in his remarks on Sunday. “We know this hatred is horrible but not at all new, a fact that the Vice President and I recalled to Yad Vashem in Israel a few years ago, and just a few weeks ago at the Memorial of the Shoah in France. “
“But we also know that the story of Hanukkah is the story of a people who not only face tragedy, but of those who are committed to their faith, proud of their tradition and grateful for the many. miracles and blessings in all of our lives. “
This story was updated with additional developments on Sunday.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.