His kids call her ‘Momala’: Meet the Jewish husband of Biden’s pick for VP
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His kids call her ‘Momala’: Meet the Jewish husband of Biden’s pick for VP

A successful Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket would make Doug Emhoff the first ever second gentleman and first Jewish spouse of a US president or VP

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and her husband Douglas Emhoff look to each other at the end of a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and her husband Douglas Emhoff look to each other at the end of a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

NEW YORK — Next week will mark six years since Doug Emhoff slammed his foot on a glass alongside Kamala Harris at their courthouse wedding ceremony in Santa Barbara. This year, the couple will likely have to celebrate their anniversary on the campaign trail, after the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee Joe Biden tapped Harris to be his running mate on Tuesday.

As the first woman of color, first daughter of immigrants and first Indian American to be on a major party’s presidential ticket, Harris’s nomination has been hopefully hailed as a prospective laundry list of firsts for the United States’ minorities. A successful race would also make Harris’s husband the first Jewish spouse of a US president or vice president and the first-ever second gentleman.

Emhoff, 55, was born in Brooklyn, but when he was a teenager his family moved to California, where he went to college and law school.  Early on in his career, he represented a video company in a dispute with Fox, which led him to a career in entertainment law, according to the Daily Mail.

He has gone on to represent famous clients including the Taco Bell Chihuahua and former Chicago Bears wide receiver Willie Gault before becaming a partner at the DLA Piper law firm in California.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks as his running mate Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, listens during a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware on August 12, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

He has two children from his first marriage, both of whom are now in their early twenties.

Harris and Emhoff were set up on a blind date in 2013, while the former was serving as California’s attorney general. In her memoir “The Truths we Hold,” Harris recalls how Emhoff texted her while sitting courtside at a basketball game.

“Hey! It’s Doug. Just saying hi! I’m at the Lakers game,” he wrote.

Harris responded and the two agreed to talk later. “Then I punctuated it with my own bit of awkwardness— ‘Go Lakers!’— even though I’m really a Warriors fan,” she wrote.

Less than a year later, Emhoff proposed and the two were married in 2014 in a small ceremony officiated by Harris’s sister.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and her husband Douglas Emhoff, right, applaud Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden after a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Delaware on August 12, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

“In keeping with our Indian and Jewish heritages, I put a flower garland around Doug’s neck and he stomped on a glass,” Harris recalled in the memoir.

She went on to describe her close relationship with Emhoff’s first wife and children. “We sometimes joke that our modern family is almost a little too functional.”

Uncomfortable referring to her as ‘step-mom,’ Emhoff’s children, Cole and Ella, affectionately call Harris, “Momala” — a nickname similar to the Yiddish “Mamaleh,” which means little mama.

A Washington Post deep-dive into the tax returns of the 2020 presidential candidates revealed that Harris reported no charitable giving during her first three years as California’s attorney general. But after they married, the couple began giving tens of thousands of dollars annually.

When Harris was elected to the US Senate in 2017, Emhoff took the Washington, DC bar exam, so he could spend more time with his wife.

More recently, Harris has also opened up about her warm relationship with Emhoff’s parents Barb and Mike. At a 2019 live-stage interview about her memoir, she recalled the first time she met her Jewish mother-in-law.

“She looks at me, puts my face in her hand… and she says, ‘Oh look at you. You’re prettier than you are on television. Mike, look at her!’” Harris recalled, using a thick Brooklyn accent to impersonate her mother-in-law, which had both her and the crowd laughing.

While many Jewish groups have congratulated Harris on her nomination, the leader of one hard-right group shunned her marriage to Emhoff.

“Serious Jews don’t marry non Jewish woman,” Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein tweeted on Wednesday.

He later deleted the post amid backlash, but defended its content.

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