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How The Obama Seder Became A White House Tradition One evening…

12:23 pm - 03/28/2010
How The Obama Seder Became A White House Tradition

One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.

The day had been long, the hour was late, and the young men had not been home in months. So they had cadged some matzo and Manischewitz wine, hoping to create some semblance of the holiday.

Suddenly they heard a familiar voice. “Hey, is this the Seder?” Barack Obama asked, entering the room.

So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)

Top aides like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett will attend, but so will assistants like 24-year-old Herbie Ziskend. White House chefs will prepare Jewish participants’ family recipes, even rendering chicken fat — better known as schmaltz — for just the right matzo ball flavor.

If last year is any guide, Malia and Sasha Obama will take on the duties of Jewish children, asking four questions about the night’s purpose — along with a few of their own — and scrambling to find matzo hidden in the gleaming antique furniture.

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stormqueen280 28th-Mar-2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
This is so cool! I have always been pretty curious about other religions' traditions.
roseofjuly 28th-Mar-2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
Me too, especially around the spring Passover/Easter season :D
randomneses 28th-Mar-2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
This is so presh ♥
velvetunicorn 28th-Mar-2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
what a nice tradition
ladyvoldything 28th-Mar-2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
zodiacstargazer 28th-Mar-2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
Awwww. ♥
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
t3h_toby_chan 28th-Mar-2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
Haha, we did the whole multicultural winter holiday thing in elementary school for so many years that it showed in my homemade art at the time. My dad recently pointed out a christmas poster I made for him when I was ~8 which included a menorah, a dreidel and a star of David right alongside the christmas trees, holly wreaths, and Santa.

I also drew Easter bunnies carrying crosses on my Easter basket. Oh, child!me. Stay precious.
derogatory 28th-Mar-2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
apocalypsos 28th-Mar-2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
That's awesome. :)
beshwa 28th-Mar-2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
ladypolitik 28th-Mar-2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
aujourlejour 28th-Mar-2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
so fucking awesome.
apapazukamori 28th-Mar-2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
The story about the Seder in 2008 made me tear up a little. Good going, Mr. President. :D
darthweez 28th-Mar-2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
This is amazing. I really love this.
(no subject) - Anonymous
condenast 28th-Mar-2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
LOL, that's The West Wing, correct?
missmurchison 28th-Mar-2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
I love the way Jewish holidays are so family-centered and more about teaching than preaching. And food, of course. What's the old saying that describes most of them? "They tried to kill us, they didn't succeed, let's eat!"
serendipity_15 29th-Mar-2010 12:14 am (UTC)
Haha, one of my Jewish co-workers told me that this week and I was like that is such a great reason to have a holiday.
ladyanneboleyn 28th-Mar-2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
This is fucking beautiful.
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