Doug Emhoff and Kamala Harris Celebrate First Passover at the White House
"It's events like this one ... that keep us connected and remind us that we're not alone," the second gentleman said
A White House official tells PEOPLE that the celebration, which streamed live online, "provide[d] members of the Jewish community the opportunity to come together to commemorate the holiday's themes of rebirth and renewal."
The White House Passover was led by Rabbi Sharon Brous. It was streamed a few days before the actual holiday (which begins on Saturday and ends April 4) to allow participation by members of the Orthodox community, who will abstain from the use of technology during Passover.
"After a year of social distancing and mask wearing, it's impossible not to feel isolated at times. So it's events like this one, events that creatively bring family and friends and communities together, that keep us connected and remind us that we're not alone," Emhoff said at the ceremony before noting he got to do one of his "favorite things" and introduce the vice president.
"Our family, like so many families in the United States, the state of Israel and around the world, will begin to celebrate the sacred holiday of Passover this weekend," Harris, 56, said. "And the Passover story is powerful. It reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of injustice. It urges us to keep the faith in the face of uncertainty."
"This year, as we dip our greens in salt water and pour out our ceremonial wine and eat our bitter herbs, let us commit, once again, to repairing the world," she said.
Emhoff, 56, is the first Jewish spouse of a vice president or president. Earlier this week, he appeared at the Virtual National Rainbow Seder, which celebrated the LGBTQ community's journey to equality.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this celebration of Passover for the LGBTQ community and allies," he said in his remarks, later adding that Passover "has always been one of my favorite holidays."
He continued: "Some of my earliest memories of my own family's Jewish traditions are of my mom dressing me and my siblings in matching outfits to go over to my Grandma Anne's house in Brooklyn for Seder. The Seder is where I learned from an early age that Passover holds such power."
The narrative of Passover, Emhoff said, is one that is both rooted in history and the contemporary struggles of those in various communities.
"The journey from oppression to freedom has been our peoples' narrative for more than 2,000 year but it is a journey that remains ongoing in this country for many communities," he said.
Emhoff, an entertainment attorney, is the first second gentleman in the country and has been taking his new roles — both as the vice president's husband and a new instructor at Georgetown University, where he is teaching a class — in stride.
"Look: It's odd the second gentleman is their teacher. But we kind of dispensed with that ... maybe five minutes in the first class," Emhoff said when speaking to reporters recently about his Georgetown students. "Now, it's just they want to learn, they want to be great lawyers and I'm trying to impart to them experiences as a lawyer."
Emhoff is teaching a two-credit course for the spring semester titled "Entertainment Law Disputes."
Harris, meanwhile, has been making appearances of her own — on television, to urge Congress to pass stricter gun laws in the wake of two high-profile shootings, and in person, to tout the administration's vaccination efforts.
It was announced on Wednesday that Harris will lead the U.S. response at the southern border, where thousands of unaccompanied migrant children are being detained as they await processing.