Home Feature News Second gentleman Doug Emhoff leans into his historic position as he fights antisemitism after Israel assaults | CNN Politics

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff leans into his historic position as he fights antisemitism after Israel assaults | CNN Politics

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Second gentleman Doug Emhoff leans into his historic position as he fights antisemitism after Israel assaults | CNN Politics

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CNN
 — 

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff’s position as a pacesetter confronting antisemitism – and, personally, his historic position as the primary Jewish partner of a president or vice chairman – has taken new significance this week.

“We witnessed a mass homicide of harmless civilians,” Emhoff advised Jewish leaders Wednesday on the White Home, slamming his hand on the lectern as he described photographs of rockets falling, kids sheltering from bullets and our bodies lining Israeli streets after the assaults by Hamas.

“Many people really feel a deep worry that these assaults will sadly – and have already got – led to an increase in antisemitism. We’re already seeing it,” he mentioned.

The assaults on Israel by Hamas over the weekend shocked the world and despatched ripples by means of the Biden administration. Amid issues about rising antisemitism within the wake of the assaults, Emhoff – one of many White Home’s handiest messengers on the problem – has stepped up his efforts to talk out and seems set to grow to be a key face of the administration’s engagement with the Jewish group. Inner discussions about Emhoff’s plans to fulfill with the Jewish group within the coming days and weeks are ongoing, a supply acquainted with planning advised CNN.

The assaults in Israel come after the Anti-Defamation League Middle on Extremism, which has tracked incidents of US antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault since 1979, discovered 3,697 antisemitic incidents within the US in 2022, up a big 36% from the earlier 12 months – and the best on document.

Amid that backdrop, the roundtable – and Emhoff’s presence at it – held particular significance for the leaders gathered on the White Home. Eighty years in the past this month, 400 rabbis from throughout the nation marched to the White Home, in search of a gathering with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the place they hoped to make an enchantment to the president to rescue the Jews persecuted in Europe.

“They had been refused a gathering with President Roosevelt. They had been refused entry to the White Home,” Nathan Diament, the chief director for public coverage at Orthodox Union, advised President Joe Biden, Emhoff, and different senior administration officers.

“The truth that we’re right here right now,” Diament mentioned within the Eisenhower Government Workplace Constructing, “exhibits what a dramatic distance we’ve traveled in these United States.”

There is no such thing as a guide for being the partner of a vice chairman, however the largely ceremonial position – one that’s unelected – comes with an automated international platform.

“There’s no playbook, there’s no job description, there’s, fairly frankly, no wage. However what there’s, is a approach to message and an viewers that’s form of ready-made to listen to what it’s you need to say. … And in that sense, what seems like a form of in impotent administration place out of the blue feels crucial and really highly effective,” mentioned Kate Bennett, a former CNN White Home reporter who extensively coated first and second households.

Generally the position is certainly one of a pinch-hitter – stepping in to steer a delegation on behalf of the president or vice chairman, to attend an inauguration or maybe a sporting occasion. However since his spouse took workplace, Emhoff has crafted a deliberate and well timed two-pronged portfolio: advocating for gender fairness, and, unexpectedly, preventing antisemitism.

Emhoff has held a number of roundtables, met with college students, lit the menorah and affixed a mezuzah exterior the vice presidential residence. Earlier this 12 months, he traveled to key websites in Poland and Germany to mark Worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Day and meet with particular envoys and coordinators on combating antisemitism alongside US Particular Envoy to Monitor and Fight Antisemitism Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt. And in Might, the Biden administration unveiled the first-ever nationwide technique to fight antisemitism.

The efforts first intensified final 12 months. Emhoff was “infuriated” when, after rapper Kanye West posted a lot of incendiary antisemitic tweets, somebody hung a banner over Interstate 405 close to his house in Los Angeles that mentioned, “Kanye was proper.”

“It simply infuriated me. … And that was one of many different the explanation why I leaned so onerous into the plan and the conferences and all of the talking and writing I’ve performed – as a result of it’s all over the place, together with my neighborhood. And I’ve to do extra. I’ve this microphone. I’ve this unimaginable platform, as soon as in a lifetime alternative to really do one thing about it,” he mentioned throughout a Yom Kippur dialog at Adas Israel Congregation in late September.

The rising tide of antisemitism, Emhoff mentioned, is instantly tied to threats to democracy – one thing Biden staked his 2020, and now 2024, campaigns on.

“We actually are dealing with an unprecedented assault on our democracy, which is fueled by hate. And that’s what it’s. So, as a way to protect our democracy and stay the best way all of us need to stay, we’ve received to cope with this challenge. … It’s all interrelated and that’s the best way we have now to method it,” Emhoff mentioned final month.

As he navigates a job contained in the administration but exterior policymaking, Emhoff’s capability to construct coalitions may very well be a key device.

Rabbis Aaron Alexander and Lauren Holtzblatt, who had been one of many second gentleman’s first calls earlier than he moved to Washington, advised CNN in a joint interview that Emhoff can use his place to foster interfaith coalitions and relationships that will probably be vital within the coming weeks and months.

“Because the second gentleman, as an American, anyplace by which he’s going to and assembly with folks of religion as an open and proud Jew is nice – feels prefer it’s good for the Jewish folks. And it’s good for America as a result of these relationships matter proper now,” Alexander mentioned.

“To the extent that the second gentleman is an influential determine in serving to create these partnerships, and to foster them, with important leaders and different faiths who’ve affect over their folks as properly, it feels significant,” he mentioned.

And the position additionally conveys affect inside the administration.

“Individuals in positions of management and affect convey their private experiences and their private identities into these roles. And you realize, the truth that Doug Emhoff is the primary American Jew who’s in certainly one of these roles, and the truth that he takes his Judaism critically and that he’s embraced his position in that method, even earlier than this horrible struggle broke out, provides it an added dimension of seriousness and a focus within the halls of the White Home,” Orthodox Union’s Diament advised CNN in an interview after Wednesday’s dialogue.

Whereas Emhoff has mentioned it’s not what he “anticipated to be doing” as second gentleman, he views his position amplifying the technique to fight antisemitism as certainly one of “accountability” and “accountability.”

“I take it very critically,” he mentioned throughout the Yom Kippur dialog.

And the antisemitism technique, Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, who was current at Wednesday’s assembly, is “all of the extra essential” within the context of Israel’s struggle with Hamas.

“We are able to’t let this disaster derail the entire progress we’ve made and undercut the urgency of this broader effort to guard not simply the Jewish group, however so many communities beneath menace proper now,” Spitalnick mentioned.

Emhoff, she added, has performed a “deeply necessary” position within the administration’s response.

“He’s conveying a variety of the ache and frustration and anger many people are feeling on this second. It’s clearly private to him,” she mentioned. “The truth proper now has conspired to make it extra pressing – and he has actually embraced that.”

One in all Emhoff’s most necessary messages to Jewish People, he mentioned on Yom Kippur, is to take pleasure within the religion.

“Be proud you’re Jewish. And have pleasure in it, and simply stay overtly and proudly. … I like it. I believe it’s one of the best factor ever, and everybody must have that very same pleasure,” he mentioned.

Utilizing his platform to share that message on this second, Holtzblatt mentioned, “is important.”

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