Saturday, May 9, 2015
Obama Hosts Seder Dinner at White House
Pete Souza/White House
Update | 6:50 p.m.
President Obama and a collection of guests celebrated Passover Thursday evening with what White House officials believe to be the first Passover Seder dinner hosted by an American president.
Mr. Obama is not Jewish, but White House officials say that while traveling through Pennsylvania during the campaign last year, he surprised his aides by joining an impromptu Passover dinner held by campaign workers in a ballroom of a Harrisburg hotel, so he decided to treat the group to a dinner this year in his new surroundings.
The Seder, held in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House with several aides and their families, included the traditional Passover dishes, matzo ball soup, brisket and kugel. The White House chefs prepared the meal after consulting family recipes from several Seder participants.
While the Obamas hosted the dinner, it was overseen by Eric Lesser, a White House aide who helped organize the Seder in Harrisburg during the campaign last year. He is now a special assistant to Mr. Obama’s adviser David Axelrod.
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama struggled to address skepticism from Jewish voters, particularly in the Democratic primary race with Hillary Rodham Clinton. But Jewish groups cheered the presidential Seder, and aides said the White House switchboard was flooded by calls from people seeking an invitation.