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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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silly_cakes 28th-Mar-2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
Fucking awesome.
_almagitana 29th-Mar-2010 12:17 am (UTC)
I'm going to my first seder tomorrow, I'm so excited
sexitara18 29th-Mar-2010 02:55 am (UTC)
saltireflower 29th-Mar-2010 03:57 am (UTC)
This is great. I went to a Jewish high school and a rabbi would come every year and speak for Passover. I would love to go to a Seder though.
homasse 29th-Mar-2010 04:08 am (UTC)
...Oh, man, now I want matzo ball soup in the worst possible way.

And this story is so darned cute. :D
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