For my part, I''ve always felt that two seders were more than enough. Apparently, others disagree. At least they do in Washington, where the weeks leading up to Passover see seders proliferate like SuperPACs.
There are diplomatic seders, Congressional seders, gay pride seders. A favorite variant is to use a seder theme to spin out a pet cause, like the labor seder using the slavery bit to talk about fair work conditions or the immigration seder picking up on welcoming the stranger, since the Jews were once strangers in Egypt.
The latest addition to the line-up is the US Department of Agriculture seder, which was held on Wednesday and attended by Secretary Vilsak himself. The Department of Agriculture last waded into Jewish holiday observance when it planted trees on the Mall for Tu B''Shevat in February. Can booths on Sukkot be far behind?
The agriculture seder was also officially billed as a White House event, with top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett sent as its emissary. Perhaps this will give her some new fodder for her Jewish event speeches -- her recent appearance before J Street included a recitation of stories that could use some freshening up.
At any rate, the double-billing should not be confused with the actual White House seder, which will take place Friday night at the White House presided over by Barack Obama himself. As White House Jewish liaison Jarrod Bernstein reminded folks when he circulated Obama''s annual Passover greeting Thursday, back in April 2008 the candidate was on the campaign trail when he heard that his staff would be holding an impromptu seder and decided to join in. At the end of the seder, Obama added a few words to the traditional “Next year in Jerusalem” declaration. “Next year in the White House," he told them.
I wonder if Obama had any idea what he was getting himself into when he uttered that clever turn of phrase -- a yearly commitment to sit through the longest meal on the Jewish calendar (which is really saying something) rather than a one-off celebration to make good on his pledge. Now it''s ensconced in White House tradition. Any diminution, including a seder without a presidential appearance, could be seen as the president turning his back on the Jews.
In our multicultural era, there''s only one way to go with honoring different religious and ethnic traditions: up. Here''s hoping whoever''s occupying the Oval Office in 2013 doesn''t feel the need to raise the ante by also observing the second night.
- Hilary Leila Krieger