Did you know that Kamala Harris is the daughter of interfaith parents and in an interfaith marriage herself?
At this point, most people are aware that Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris is of Black and South Asian heritage. But they may not know that Joe Biden’s running mate is also in an interfaith marriage. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, is Jewish, and as scores of affectionate photos on Instagram illustrate, their marriage is quite the love story. A recent post from Emhoff reads, “Dear Kamala Harris: I love you, I believe in you, and I’m so proud of you. The whole country is going to see what I get to see every day. You are amazing.” And that’s just one of many adoring tributes. Here’s why theirs is true #InterfaithRelationshipGoals.
Harris is a product of an interfaith marriage herself. Her mother immigrated from India and her father was born in Jamaica. (She was raised with Hindu and Christian traditions but now considers herself a Black Baptist.)
They’re a modern family. Emhoff, a native of Brooklyn, New York, is a divorced father of two whom Harris first met on a blind date.
They didn’t play by the rules. Harris’ friend Chrisette Hudlin, a PR consultant, set them up, giving Emhoff Harris’ number. Emhoff texted her from a Lakers game and they made plans to meet. The morning after their first date, the instantly smitten Emhoff wrote in an email, “I’m too old to play games or hide the ball. I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work.”
They knew it was the real deal. Just five months after Emhoff surprised her with a diamond ring, they were married at the Santa Barbara courthouse, in a small and intimate ceremony officiated by Harris’ sister, Maya Harris West.
They had an egalitarian interfaith wedding. Harris broke the glass and Emhoff wore a flower garland to honor each other’s Jewish and Hindu traditions.
Harris is a thoughtful stepmom. Emhoff already had a son, Cole, and daughter, Ella, from his marriage to Kerstin Mackin. “As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it could be when your parents start to date other people,” she has said. “And I was determined not to insert myself in their lives until Doug and I had established we were in this for the long haul. Children need consistency; I didn’t want to insert myself into their lives as a temporary fixture because I didn’t want to disappoint them. There’s nothing worse than disappointing a child.”
She’s cool with his ex. Harris and Mackin are “dear friends,” characterizing the family’s dynamic as “almost a little too functional.” The kids came up with a great rhyming nickname for Harris: Mamala, which of course means little mama in Yiddish. (Kamala means lotus in Hindi.)
He’s her cheerleader. If the Biden-Harris ticket is elected in November, Emhoff will become the first ‘Second Gentleman,’ a fitting role for a man who has been her biggest fan and steadfast supporter, encouraging her as she climbed the ladder in her political career from California Attorney General to the Senate, her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, and her current run for the White House with Biden.
In the kitchen, too. “I’ve gotten pretty handy in the kitchen as her sous-chef,” he has said. (Their specialties: homemade Indian biryani and spaghetti Bolognese.)
They’re still going strong. August 22 marks their fifth wedding anniversary. Emhoff posted on Instagram last year, “We met, fell madly in love (still are), got married and continue to live very happily ever after.” Respecting and embracing their different cultural and faith backgrounds is important to this couple, and they are on a constant chase for justice and equality. Harris’ interfaith relationship shows that Emhoff and her are clearly on the same page—in love, life and politics, and we’re along for the ride to see what happens next.
Gerri Miller writes and reports from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for The Jewish Journal, The Nosher, Hadassah and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv'at Brenner in Israel and attends High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.