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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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skywaterblue 28th-Mar-2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
wrestlingdog 28th-Mar-2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
arisma 28th-Mar-2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
Well, now I'm gonna have to make matzo ball soup soon. And yes, soft matzo is where it's at.
tvisgood 28th-Mar-2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
This is adorable. I wouldn't mind sitting through a seder if it was a White House seder.
condenast 28th-Mar-2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
Ah, so much love! I had a "Damn, that's the PRESIDENT" moment reading this. You wouldn't hear any of the previous ones doing this kind of thing.
calidreamin08 28th-Mar-2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
lol, i came here to post this.

it's so heartwarming ^_^
seagullsong 28th-Mar-2010 07:06 pm (UTC)
Man, I want to go to a Sedar. My best friend's family got invited to a silly one- everyone has to dress up as their favorite plague. So she's going as a zombie for the whole "death of the first-born" thing, and her six-year-old sister is going as a frog. lol

Even the more serious ones sound fun. I am jealous of the president.
vulgarcriminal 28th-Mar-2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
salienne 28th-Mar-2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
*Big grin* This is adorable.
abrokencompass 28th-Mar-2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
I love my president. Seriously. That's a nice thing to be able to say.
bluescreenmofo 28th-Mar-2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
I love Jews. And I love the Obama's.
cookiesauce 28th-Mar-2010 08:22 pm (UTC)

Well, I guess obama's guest list isn't as fun and exciting as my family's, but still.

By the way, we plate the gefilte and pass the brisket too. I feel so presidential.

Was there ever an explanation for where the fuck Rahm Emanuel is?
cookiesauce 28th-Mar-2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, also? Sasha and Malia finding the afikoman is quite possibly the cutest thing ever.
lied_ohne_worte 28th-Mar-2010 08:28 pm (UTC)
Aww, that's a nice story. And the story about getting the flourless cookies inside is something they should probably tell to future presidents so they understand that their life is going to change in unexpected ways.
rubytramp 28th-Mar-2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
This story made my liberal NY Jew heart swell with those icky emotion things.

Is Joe gonna be there?

Seriously, this is a big fucking deal!
raggedyanndy 28th-Mar-2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful! :) I <3 my president.
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