“We are gathered today for the first Passover celebration of the Biden-Harris administration and I’m excited to join you as the first ever second gentleman, married to the first woman to serve as vice president of the United States. And as the first Jewish spouse of a president or a vice president,” Emhoff added.
White House officers say Emhoff respects the significance of his function as the first Jewish partner of the first or second household.
“He obviously recognizes the significance of being the first in this space and I think he’s very honored to have the opportunity to help lead some of these really important and significant traditions,” a White House official instructed NCS.
Emhoff starred in a number of occasions throughout the election marketing campaign aimed at reaching the Jewish neighborhood, usually ruminating on his personal Jewish upbringing. He mentioned continuously that the beliefs he discovered via his religion had been these President Joe Biden exemplified himself.
To all of his viewers, Emhoff mentioned Passover has at all times been one of his favourite holidays, and he recalled going to Seders as a baby at his grandmother’s home in Brooklyn.
“Now, of course, it’s exactly what you’re picturing. That apartment. The plastic covering on the sofa. The smell of brisket wafting in from the kitchen. And me, sitting there at the table, patiently waiting, just waiting, to dig into that delightfully gelatinous gefilte fish, which inexplicably I still love today,” Emhoff mentioned. His mother and father, together with different members of his household, joined the digital celebration on Thursday evening.
Return to custom
The White House’s Seder is a return to a practice that dates again to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 marketing campaign. That 12 months, a bunch of staffers on the Obama marketing campaign staged a Seder in the basement of a Sheraton resort in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a meal that grew to become a precursor to an annual White House custom.
One of the staffers who helped set up that Seder, Herbie Ziskend, now serves as deputy communications director to the vp. Ziskend recalled that at the finish of the 2008 Seder, when Jewish folks historically say, “Next year in Jerusalem,” Obama mentioned, “Next year in the White House, if I win.”
He, of course, did win, and the Obamas went on to maintain Seders yearly they had been in the White House. However as soon as they left workplace, the official White House Seder glided by the wayside.
In April 2017, the first 12 months the Trumps had been in the White House, there was a staff-level Seder held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, although President Donald Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump — each of whom are observant Jews — didn’t attend.
Last 12 months, as the coronavirus pandemic was taking maintain and far of the nation was on lockdown, Kushner and Ivanka Trump traveled to the the President’s Bedminster, New Jersey, resort to have fun Passover, a transfer that disregarded federal coronavirus tips.
Next 12 months in Jerusalem — and in particular person
Despite the continued improve in vaccines going into American arms, this 12 months’s Passover will nonetheless require a digital gathering for a lot of households, and the White House is not any totally different.
Emhoff mentioned that internet hosting a digital celebration is one thing that may “keep us connected and remind us that we’re not alone.” But he additionally spoke about the gentle at the finish of the tunnel.
“This is the second Passover in a row that we’re celebrating virtually and hopefully it’s the last. The pandemic has forced all of us to adjust or pause some of our favorite traditions and activities, but if we all continue to follow the guidelines that are helping to keep us safe … we’re gonna win this fight against Covid and we’re all gonna be together in person next year,” he mentioned.
Officials declined to preview how the couple plans on celebrating the Seders over the weekend.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who joined Emhoff to shut the occasion, mentioned that she hopes subsequent 12 months folks aren’t simply celebrating in Jerusalem, but additionally in particular person.
“Happy Passover, to all who celebrate, and indeed next year in Jerusalem — next year, in person,” she mentioned.
NCS’s Kate Bennett and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.