WASHINGTON – The White House hosted a virtual event on Thursday to celebrate Passover ahead of the Jewish holiday. Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, led a Zoom event open to the public.
"This is a moment of many firsts," said Emhoff. "We are gathered today for the first Passover celebration of the Biden Harris administration, and I'm excited to join you as the first-ever second gentlemen, who married to the first woman to serve as vice-president of the United States and as the first Jewish spouse of a president or a vice president."
"This is the second Passover in a row that we're celebrating virtually, and hopefully, it's the last," he noted.
Several members of Congress, as well as administration officials participated in the Seder, and students from the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation's Capital performed the traditional holiday songs.
President Joe Biden wished "Chag Sameach" in Hebrew in a video message. He added that he hopes that next year, families will be able to celebrate together. "We can close the Seder by adapting a familiar refrain, not only next year in Jerusalem, but next year in person. Next year together."
"As Jewish families across the country and around the world mark this important tradition, we know you're all sitting to the Seder table with heavy hearts, but also with hope for the year ahead," said Biden. "As we continue working to defeat this pandemic and continue to confront discrimination and prejudice, as we seek to rebuild from a time of struggle and loss, we need the inspiration of Passover now more than ever."
He went on to say that this year, like last, we're still planning virtual celebrations, "blessing on the matza and wine over the screen rather than side-by-side."
"There are still some grandparents who haven't been able to embrace their grandchildren since the last Passover," the president said. "And there are far too many empty chairs at our Seder, a solid reminder of all that we've lost."
First Lady Jill Biden said that Passover is "a story of overcoming adversity and finding hope; of summoning that resilience and resolve to emerge from a long dark night to a brighter morning."
"It's a story of empathy and how our own rights are bound up with the rights of our neighbors. And it's a story of faith that even in the face of oppression, better days, lie ahead," she said. "This celebration is Jewish, but its message is universal. It resonates from generation to generation.
Vice President Kamala Harris blessed, as well, with "next year, in Jerusalem; next year, in person."
"The Passover story is powerful," said Harris. "It reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of injustice. It urges us to keep faith in the face of uncertainty. And it speaks to fundamental truths -- the truths that we all hold dear and must sometimes be reminded of -- which is that we all deserve freedom, and it's our duty to fight for those who are not yet free.”
"And so, this year, as we dip our greens in saltwater and pour out our ceremonial wine and eat our bitter herbs, let us commit, once again, to repairing the world," the vice president added.