Researcher with gloves holding a Jewish mezuzah which will be displayed at the official Vice Presidential residence.


Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence to display a mezuzah from The Magnes Collection

January 10, 2022

A mezuzah from The Magnes Collection will soon be hung in the official Washington, D.C. residence of Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

The sterling silver mezuzah was made after a design by Ludwig Yehuda Wolpert, a Jewish American sculptor and designer. It has inscribed the Hebrew phrase “Blessed shall you be in your comings and blessed shall you be in your goings” (Deuteronomy 28:6), a traditional blessing for visitors and travelers.

Leah Rabin (1928-2000) gifted the Mezuzah to Alice Grossman (1909-2007) in 1974 — the year that Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995) succeeded Golda Meir as Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Grossman had served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, and had subsequently worked at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., later moving to San Francisco, where she was an active member of the San Francisco Chapter of Hadassah and of Congregation Ner Tamid. After her passing, her sister, Molly Grossman, donated the Mezuzah to The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life.

“It is a mezuzah that connects with [Harris and Emhoff’s] personal history. It is a rare example of a Jewish ritual object that has touched the lives of several women in service. And it really intersects history with a capital H.”

– Francesco Spagnolo, Magnes Curator

In an excerpt from the Berkeley News article, Will Kane writes “A mezuzah, which literally translates to doorpost, is a piece of parchment inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Bible that is housed in a case created especially to be affixed on doorposts.

It is one of the items that ‘make a Jewish home Jewish,’ said John Efron, the Koret Professor of Jewish History at Berkeley and faculty director of the museum….

…‘Two things are historic firsts,’ Efron said. ‘You’ve got Emhoff, the first Jewish Second Gentleman, and the request is a first for The Magnes and UC Berkeley, which have never been asked to do something like this before.’

But choosing the particular item that would hang in Emhoff and Harris’ residence was no easy task.

The work began months ago when Francesco Spagnolo, curator of the museum, was contacted by the vice president’s staff: Was there something in the Magnes’ collection that would be appropriate to hang in the vice presidential mansion?”

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life is proud to be a part of bringing this sacred object to the Vice President’s official residence.

Learn more about the mezuzah.

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