What You Need to Know About Kamala Harris and the Jewish American Community

June 5, 2023

Last month, JDCA was honored to be joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, a champion of our values in the White House and a committed friend of the Jewish community. I was thrilled to introduce the Vice President and honored that she recognized the vital role of JDCA and the importance of “the work of this organization and all of you.” Watch and share Vice President Harris’s powerful remarks to Jewish Dems about her commitment to our community and combating antisemitism.

Tomorrow, the Vice President will address the Israeli Embassy’s 75th Independence Day reception, where she’ll speak about her and the Biden administration’s steadfast commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Inspired by recent events, I wrote an op-ed on what you need to know about Vice President Harris and the Jewish American community. We’ve included the full op-ed below — give it a read!

What You Need to Know About Kamala Harris and the Jewish American Community

It is often said that a true test of character is what someone does when no one is watching. This is especially true for public figures, who are watched and scrutinized on their every move.

Seven months ago, in the final days of the 2022 midterms, my former boss called to check in on me. Despite my having left her Senate office four years earlier, she was reaching out to see how I was doing amid the rising scourge of antisemitism resulting from Kanye “Ye” West’s threat to go “death con 3 on the Jewish people.”

For some, this might be a normal call, but it certainly wasn’t a call I was expecting now that my former boss was the Vice President of the United States. At the same time, it reflected the kind of person Kamala Harris is when no one is watching, and the deep connection she has with Jewish Americans — who are quite literally her family.

It wasn’t just Kamala Harris who broke a glass ceiling by becoming the first woman of color to serve as Vice President of the United States. On that same day, her husband, Douglas Emhoff, also broke glass — just as he did at their wedding — by becoming the first Jewish spouse of an American president or vice president.

Since that time, we have seen the Vice President and Second Gentleman bring Jewish traditions and symbols to the White House — affixing a mezuzah on the doorpost of an executive residence and hosting a seder at the Vice President’s residence, both for the first time in American history. But their leadership on issues of importance to Jewish Americans — including combating antisemitism and supporting Israel — extend far beyond symbolism, and these ties did not begin on Inauguration Day.

In November 2017, I traveled with then-Senator Harris to Israel. I witnessed the deep commitment the now-Vice President has to Israel’s security and right to self-defense when she visited an Iron Dome battery in Ashkelon. During the visit, she talked with young members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) about the painstaking decision of when to deploy — or not deploy — an Iron Dome interceptor, based on a risk assessment related to potential loss of life. She took it all in with compassion, empathy, and a deep understanding of the fragility of Israel’s security, especially when it faces all-too-often barrages of rocket attacks.

Kamala Harris’s commitment to Israel’s security — which she’ll underscore on Tuesday when she headlines the Israel 75 celebration in Washington, D.C. — is evident in her unwavering and unconditional support of military aid to Israel, first in the Senate, later as a candidate, and now in the White House. Two years ago, she helped to actualize President Biden’s commitment to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system following its 2021 three-week conflict with Hamas. And we’ve seen the direct result of that commitment each time the Iron Dome system intercepts a rocket targeting a population center, saving countless Israeli lives.

On that trip to Israel, I also witnessed the Vice President’s unyielding commitment to combat antisemitism. With few people watching, following a quiet and thoughtful tour of the museum, she wrote the following in the visitor’s log of Yad Vashem: “As we bear witness to the horrors of the Holocaust, let us always strive to remember that we as human beings have so much more in common than what separates us. And by embracing this truth, let us live up to that solemn promise — never again!”

These powerful words have been backed by powerful actions, including in the Senate, where Harris — in her third month in office — led and passed a bipartisan resolution condemning hate crimes, including those targeting religious minorities. As someone who worked on this effort, I can attest that it was inspired by her deep concern about the rise of antisemitism.

Less than two weeks ago, the Biden-Harris administration released the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. This whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach brings new meaning to the Vice President’s words at Yad Vashem, with over 100 calls to action to be taken to combat, prevent, and respond to the scourge of Jew hatred.

The administration’s strategy to combat antisemitism also brings new meaning to the Vice President’s question she asked me during our phone call last year. She was reaching out not only to see how I was doing amid the rise of antisemitism, but also to ask what actions should be taken by the White House to combat it. With this new strategy, she is making good on her commitment to stand by and defend the Jewish community with concrete actions.

That phone call epitomized the reality that Kamala Harris is always wearing two hats — on the one hand, she’s a beloved “momala,” nurturing of both her family and extended family, including many Jewish Americans, who are an important part of her life. On the other hand, she’s a committed policymaker, working to shape the world consistent with her values.

As the head of a Jewish advocacy and political organization, I’m grateful to know that those values are aligned with those shared by the vast majority of Jewish Americans, as evidenced by the Vice President’s leadership in defense of democracyabortion rightsgun violence prevention, and other top issues for Jewish voters.

Vice President Harris often cites her mother’s admonition “You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.” With her leadership, she’s making good on this promise. She is a first-in-history Vice President who has made — and will continue to make — a difference, standing with the Jewish and other minority communities, to enact meaningful policies and bring about positive change.

Thank you for your continued partnership.


Halie Soifer
CEO, Jewish Democratic Council of America