FACT CHECK: Douglas Emhoff Gives Inaccurate Retelling Of Hanukkah In Tweet

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff claimed in a Dec. 11 tweet that Hanukkah was about Jews going into hiding and not having enough oil.


Verdict: Misleading

Hanukkah is not about Jews hiding, but celebrating victory over a defeated enemy. Emhoff later deleted the tweet.

Fact Check:

Emhoff and the President Joe Biden hosted a Hanukkah reception at the White House Dec. 11, according to UPI. Emhoff and his wife, Vice President Kamala Harris, also celebrated the start of Hanukkah Dec. 8, the Hill reported.

Emhoff posted a tweet about Hanukkah Dec. 11. Emhoff is Jewish, according to the New York Times.

“The story of Hanukkah and the story of the Jewish people has always been one of hope and resilience.In the Hanukkah story, the Jewish people were forced into hiding. No one thought they would survive or that the few drops of oil they had would last. But they survived and the oil kept burning,” Emhoff’s tweet reads.

“During those eight days in hiding, they recited their prayers and continued their traditions. That’s why Hanukkah means dedication. It was during those dark nights that the Maccabees dedicated themselves to maintaining hope and faith in the oil, each other, and their Judaism. In these dark times, I think of that story.”

However, this recollection of Hanukkah appears to not be accurate. First, the Jewish people were not “forced into hiding.” Hanukkah is about the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire in the early 2nd century BC, according to Britannica.

“Following the Jewish victory in a three-year struggle against Antiochus, Judas ordered the cleansing and restoration of the Temple. After it was purified, a new altar was installed and dedicated on Kislev 25. Judas then proclaimed that the dedication of the restored Temple should be celebrated every year for eight days beginning on that date,” reads the Britannica article.

The Britannica article also explains that the “jar contained only enough oil to burn for one day, but miraculously the oil burned for eight days until new consecrated oil could be found.”

Experts in Jewish Studies told Check Your Fact that Emhoff’s retelling claim was inaccurate. (RELATED: Did RFK Jr. Meet With Then-President Trump To Lead A Vaccine Safety Commission?)

“I’ve never heard that Jews went into hiding. I don’t know where he got that,” John M. Efron, the Koret Chair in Jewish History at the University of California, Berkley, told Check Your Fact in an email.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, the Crown Family Professor of Jewish Studies at Northwestern University, told Check Your Fact that Emhoff’s tweet “makes no sense.”

“What he says is an impressionistic bla-bla, metaphor on a metaphor, with some cryptic references, signifying nothing. The problem is not that it is inaccurate—it is of course inaccurate in general and in detailthe problem is that it makes no sense,” Petrovsky-Shtern said.

The Jewish News Syndicate reported that Emhoff was mocked for “misstating” the Hanukkuh story. Emhoff later deleted the tweet after critics took note of inaccuracies, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Check Your Fact reached out to a Harris spokesperson and the White House for comment.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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