A 92-year-old Holocaust survivor will be Doug Emhoff’s guest at Biden’s State of the Union speech


(JTA) — Second gentleman Doug Emhoff is extending his focus on Holocaust remembrance by inviting a Washington, D.C.-area survivor to be his guest at President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech Tuesday evening.

Ruth Cohen, who survived multiple concentration camps including Auschwitz, will join Emhoff at the annual policy address in Washington. Emhoff first met Cohen last year before International Holocaust Remembrance Day with his wife, Vice President Kamala Harris, according to a press release from the White House.

This year, Emhoff spent International Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed on Jan. 27, at Auschwitz with Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. It was part of a six-day trip focused on antisemitism and Jewish life in Europe.

Cohen, meanwhile, last week traveled to Egypt to speak at that country’s second-ever International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration. Born in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1930, Cohen was just shy of 14 when her family was deported to Auschwitz; her mother, brother and cousins were killed but she and her father and sister survived, according to a biography on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where she has been a longtime volunteer.

Emhoff’s focus on Holocaust remembrance has been sustained since Biden and Harris were inaugurated in 2021. Last year, he toured the Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles and interacted there with an AI version of a Holocaust survivor, which the organization has developed to ensure that the common practice of having survivors speak about their experiences can outlive the survivors themselves.