Snap Fact #152

President Barack Obama hosts annual Passover Seders in the White House!
The first Presidential Passover Seder ever held in the White House took place on Thursday, April 09, 2009, with President Obama, the first family, close friends and aides that work in the White House in attendance. Eric Lesser, a special assistant to White House official David Axelrod, oversaw the festive meal which included readings from the Maxwell House Passover Haggadah. Guests dined on traditional favorites like matzo ball soup, brisket and kugel, which White House chefs prepared after consulting family recipes from the participants. The Seder has become annual tradition since 2008, when then Senator Obama joined an impromptu Seder with a few Jewish and non-Jewish aides at the end of a long campaign day in a Harrisburg, PA hotel. The following year, President Obama asked his staff about Passover plans, and a tradition was born to hold annual Passover Seders in the White House.

"By hosting the first presidential Seder in America's history," President Barack Obama shows the personal and deep relationship he has with the Jewish community, said Alexis C. Rice, Deputy Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. "There is no question, Obama is a true friend of the Jewish community."Last year on April 15, 2011, three days before Passover, President Obama sent a Passover holiday greeting--Chag Sameach--to Jews worldwide who began celebrating Passover on Monday night, April 18. That night, President Obama and the first family hosted his third White House Passover Seder with close friends and White House Staff in attendance.
The text of President Obama's Passover message was as follows:

"My family and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating the sacred festival of Passover."
"On Monday evening, Jewish families and their friends in America, Israel, and around the world will gather around the Seder table and retell the story of the Exodus, one of the most powerful stories of suffering and redemption in history. The story of Passover - which recalls the passage of the children of Israel from bondage and repression to freedom and liberty - inspires hope that those oppressed and enslaved can become free. The Seder, with its rich traditions and rituals, instructs each generation to remember its past, while appreciating the beauty of freedom and the responsibility it entails."

"That ancient instruction is reflected in the daily headlines as we see modern stories of social transformation and liberation unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa. Against the backdrop of change, we continue to pray for peace between Israel and her neighbors, while reaffirming our enduring commitment to Israel's security."

"As Jewish families gather for this joyous celebration of freedom, let us all be thankful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us, and let us work to alleviate the suffering, poverty, injustice, and hunger of those who are not yet free. Chag Sameach."This year, on April 04, 2012, Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and acclaimed cookbook author and Jewish food authority Joan Nathan demonstrated two Passover recipes to a crowd gathered at the White House for a livestream event about Jewish food and Passover traditions, "The Chosen Food" (Matzo Chremsel, a fried fruit and Matzo cake that is typically dusted with powdered sugar, and Arkansas Pear Haroset, a regional take on the tart dish that is a centerpiece of the Seder meal).
The livestream event was in conjunction with an exhibit of the same name, 'The Chosen Food,' at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. 
This year, on the first night of Passover, Friday, April 06, 2012, the President will again host a Seder.