A lot of celebrities have been sharing Jewish solidarity, love and messages of resilience in the wake of Kanye West’s recent praise of Hitler and the rise of hate speech on social media.
But not a lot of people have been talking about how personally painful it is to experience this onslaught of scary antisemitic rhetoric and Holocaust denial — the constant existential thrumming ache that comes with knowing the amount of hate out there against you and your people, and the way some are denying the most painful event in many of our families’ history. Yet Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff — the first Jewish person to hold that position — talked about just that last week.
“I’m in pain right now,” Emhoff tweeted last Friday. “Perpetuating lies, such as the denial of the Holocaust, and praising fascist murderers, is dangerous and fans the flames of antisemitism and hate. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts. We must not stay silent.”
“Literally every single day it gets worse,” Emhoff said about antisemitism at a Washington event last Friday. “Jews in our generation didn’t experience this level of antisemitism at all — like with so many issues, we thought that it was behind us.”
Praising Hitler and denying the Holocaust is vile, appalling, and must be condemned. Our Administration will continue to stand up against antisemitism and the epidemic of hate.
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) December 2, 2022
Emhoff’s message aligns with other unequivocal messages of solidarity from both his wife, Vice President Kamala Harris, who wrote that “praising Hitler and denying the Holocaust is vile and must be condemned,” and President Joe Biden, who decided to make it abundantly clear that when it comes to antisemitism, leaders should be calling it out and that “silence is complicity.”
I just want to make a few things clear:
The Holocaust happened.
Hitler was a demonic figure.
And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides.
Silence is complicity.
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 2, 2022
“I do not see this just as a Jewish issue. This is an issue for all of us. Because we’ve seen this before. This is how it started 70 years ago. So I don’t want it to feel normal,” Emhoff said. “I don’t want people to think, ‘Well it’s just words, it’s just Kanye.’ No. This matters.”
Emhoff is also planning to do something very concrete — he is convening a roundtable on antisemitism at the White House. Aside from Emhoff, the panel’s members will be Susan Rice, Keisha Lance Bottoms, the senior advisor and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Deborah Lipstadt, who is the administration’s special envoy to combat antisemitism. It will also include leaders of 13 different Jewish groups, including the ADL and other religious organizations.
“I never expected my Jewish faith to be that big a deal in this role,” Emhoff told JTA this summer while visiting the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, where he spoke to a Holocaust survivor and his AI twin. “As it turned out, I was very wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong, because it is a big deal.”
At this moment that is leaving so many of us Jews here in America raw and hurting, there’s something affirming about seeing that pain and heartbreak being echoed within the administration and from the Second Gentleman himself.