In a never-before act of commemoration, U.S. President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and a selected group of Jewish and Non-Jewish guests celebrated the Second Passover Seder on Thursday night in the While House. The event had never been celebrated there before, although many U.S. presidents had issued official Passover greetings to the American and World Jewish community on this annual festival of redemption and freedom.
Obama has appeared especially moved to be celebrating an event which he described the story of the Children of Israel’s redemption from human bondage as “one of the most powerful stories of suffering and redemption in human history”. Among those attending was Obama’s Chief of Staff Ram Emanuel, himself not only Jewish but Israeli by birth. A Seder had been conducted at the White House during the Clinton administration, the President himself had not attended. What made this event even more significant was that Obama, a descendent of both Christian and Muslim backgrounds, felt the holiday was worthy enough to be celebrated by himself and his family.
Members of the American Jewish Community, have expressed their satisfaction over the vent saying that American Jews have come a long way by this gesture, especially since U.S. President Franklin kept a very low profile and even “used the back door” to escape facing a protest of American Jewish rabbis protesting Roosevelt’s lack of assistance to save Jews who were dying in the Holocaust during World War II. Jews were prevented from entering the U.S. in large numbers before and during the war and it has been estimated that at least a million might have been saved if the U.S. immigration authorities had allowed a greater number to enter the U.S.
In a letter sent to the American Jewish community prior to the onset of the holiday Obama wrote of the symbolism of Passover highlights the beauty of freedom and the responsibility it entails. “As part of a larger global community, we all must work to ensure that our brothers and sisters of every race, religion, culture and nationality are free from bondage and repression, and are able to live in peace.”
Obama has attended Passover Seders in the past, including one last year in Harrisburg Pennsylvania during a campaign visit.