(photo credit: Reuters)
US President Barack Obama hosted a “kosherstyle” Seder in the White House on Monday night for a small group of Jewish and non-Jewish staffers and friends, continuing a tradition he began on the campaign trail in 2008.
“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,” Obama wrote in his Pessah message circulated on Friday.
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This year, Obama wrote, the ancient instruction in the Seder 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.”
Before the Seder, Obama phoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and passed on holiday greetings to Netanyahu and the country.
Netanyahu thanked Obama for approving the additional allocation of $205 million to the 2011 fiscal year budget for funding Iron Dome, and – according to a statement put out by Netanyahu’s office – the president said he was happy that the missiles worked and intercepted oncoming rockets.
Obama also, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, expressed appreciation for the way Netanyahu handled the recent events in Gaza. The two talked about US-Israel counterterrorism cooperation and the diplomatic process in the Middle East, and said they would talk again in the coming days.
Plates of matza adorned the Seder table in the White House, with a pillow placed on the chair of each guest. Although for the annual White House Hannuka reception the White House kitchen is made kosher by an Orthodox rabbi, no religious officials were reportedly part of the Seder.
In addition to Obama, his wife and two daughters, guests included senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett; associate director of the Office of Public Engagement Danielle Borrin; White videographer Arun Chaudhary; director of strategic planning Eric Lesser; personal aide Reggie Love; Deputy White House Communications director Jen Pskai; family friend Eric Whitaker; and vice-presidential policy analyst Herbie Ziskend.