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Kamala Harris swearing in breaks racial, gender barriers

Harris' husband becomes first Jewish resident of US Naval Observatory and first second gentleman

Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President as her spouse Doug Emhoff holds a bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at in Washington, U.S., Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS)

Perhaps the most historic aspect of the U.S. presidential inauguration on Wednesday was the swearing in of Vice President Kamala Harris, who broke down several barriers by taking office as second in command of the country.

She is the first woman to be sworn in as vice president, though two women before her have been vice presidential candidates, Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin.

Harris is the first vice president of Black descent and also the first of Indian descent. Her parents were immigrants from India and Jamaica.

At the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, Harris credited the women and civil rights leaders who paved the way for her.

“In many ways, this moment embodies our character as a nation,” she said. "It demonstrates who we are. Even in dark times, we not only dream, we do. We not only see what has been, we see what can be. We shoot for the moon. And then we plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless and ambitious.”

With President Joe Biden the oldest man every to be sworn in as president at 78, it is worth getting to know Harris who is only 56 and has a long political future ahead of her.

  • Harris used two Bibles for her swearing-in: One belonged to Regina Shelton, a woman Harris considers a second mother, and one that belonged to Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.

  • Harris selected Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is the first Hispanic judge to sit on the high court, to officiate her swearing-in ceremony.

  • Before she became the first female vice president of color, she had already racked up several other historic firsts in her home state of California: She was the first Black woman elected district attorney in California; first woman to be California’s attorney general, first Indian American senator.

  • Her husband, Doug Emhoff, will become the nation’s first second gentleman. 

  • The couple has two children, Cole and Ella, who are Harris’ step-children. She does not have biological children.

  • This marks the first time a Jew lives in the official home of the vice president, the U.S. Naval Observatory.

  • Growing up, Harris attended both a Hindu temple and a Black Baptist church. She now participates in Jewish traditions with her husband and the children call her “Momala.”

  • She initially aimed for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination but was the first to drop out in December 2019. Biden chose her as his running mate in August 2020.

  • Harris served as a senator from California, elected in 2016. She will now be the deciding vote in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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