President Obama is planning to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover by attending a small Seder at the White House Thursday evening — in what may be the first time a sitting president participates in such a ceremony.
The White House included this line in a press release sent out Tuesday regarding the president’s schedule: "President Obama and his family will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff."
The Seder at the White House will be held on the second night of Passover.
According to the Jerusalem Post, this appears to be the first time a president has been part of a Seder at the White House. Seders have been held at the White House in the past, but the president himself has not typically been part of them.
"I’m really happy to hear about it," Steve Rabinowitz, who once led a staff Seder in the Clinton White House, told the Jerusalem Post. "It’s been an extremely open White House to all faith communities, certainly including ours."
Added Rabinowitz: "I’m only sorry that I won’t be there to see the president and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel say at the same time, ‘Once we were all slaves. Now we are all free.’ "
Rabbi David Saperstein is the head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington DC and a member of President Obama’s council of community faith-based advisors. He says he think this is a first. "I’d be surprised if it’s happened before…I’m pretty sure this is the first time there’s been a seder at the White House that the President has participated in and I think it’s quite lovely."
This could be the beginning of a new White House tradition. A senior White House official tells ABC News that last April 19th, then candidate Obama gathered together with a small group of campaign staff traveling with him and held an impromptu Passover Seder in the basement of the Sheraton Hotel in Harrisburg, PA. A White House official says, "It was welcome moment of reflection and rest from the rigors of the campaign. At the conclusion of the Seder, Senator Obama and the assembled group jokingly added "Next year in the White House!" after the traditional refrain "Next year in Jerusalem!"
This is expected to be a small, intimate event for staffers and a few Obama family friends. Guests will take turns doing readings and the Seder will be lead by Eric Lesser, David Axelrod’s assistant.