Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?

Apr 8, 2009 5:18pm

President Obama will on Thursday night recline — one is obligated to, after all — at the first ever White House Passover seder to be attended by a sitting U.S. President.

Eric Lesser, special assistant to senior adviser David Axelrod and all-around mensch, is running the event, which is not expected to include as guests top White House tribesmen Axelrod or White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Guests will include:

*President Obama

*The First Lady

*Malia Obama

*Sasha Obama

*Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President

*Dr. Eric Whitaker (personal friend)

*Susan Sher, Counsel to the First Lady, and family

*Eric Lesser, Special Assistant to the Senior Advisor, and family

*Arun Chaudhary, White House Videographer, and family

*Herbie Ziskend, Staff Assistant to the Vice President’s Policy and Economic Advisors

*Reggie Love, Personal Aide to the President

*Lisa Kohnke, Deputy Director of Advance and Special Events for OPL-IGA

*Melissa Winter, Deputy Chief of Staff to the First Lady

*Dana Lewis, Personal Aide to the First Lady

*Samantha Tubman, Associate Social Secretary

Attendees are going to conduct the seder with a "shared leader" (everyone goes around the table reading a passage), which is the most inclusive way to do it, but Lesser will be coordinating it and moving it along, as he did on the campaign trail a year ago.

Lesser put together a similar event last year during the campaign at the Sheraton in Harrisburg, Penn, the night after the campaign train tour from Philly. Lesser had casually mentioned to then-Sen. Obama a day or two before that he and fellow campaign staffers Chaudhary and Ziskend were planning on an informal seder.

"It was very makeshift, because none of us could get home to see our family," recalls an attendee. "And then Obama showed up!"

Last year, after the traditional "Next year in Jerusalem!" exhortation, Mr. Obama said "Next year in the White House!"

William Daroff, who runs the United Jewish Communities’ Washington office, sees the seder in light of a less kvell-worthy moment for Jews and their commander-in-chief from 66 years ago when, President Franklin D. Roosevelt avoiding meeting with rabbis marching to demand U.S. Military action to save European Jews from Hitler and the Nazis.

"Sixty-six years later the President of the United States is spending Thursday evening with his friends and family celebrating the liberation and survival of the Jewish people," Daroff told the Jerusalem Post, which was first to report on the seder, calling the event "a testament to how far we have come."

- jpt

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