Next Year in Jerusalem… or the White House, depends on who you know…
This morning, while my friends at my neighborhood car repair shop were fixing my car to the tune of several hundred dollars (ugh), I sat in Starbucks with my Sunday New York Times.
I love the Sunday New York Times. I live in Denver now but I was born in Manhattan to a mother from Queens and no matter where we moved across the US, I always had a soft spot for a Bialy. Anyway, I love the Sunday Styles sections and my favorite way to finish my coffee is with the weddings… I’m not going to lie, sometimes I cheat and head straight to the weddings and engagements section. Today, though, something caught my eye on the front page.
Next Year in the White House: A Seder Tradition
WHAT?! Okay, we all watch the President light the giant Chabad menorah during Chanukkah but a Passover Seder? Really? Isn’t that a little odd? Well the oddities continued in the article. This is no big fancy dinner with all the well know rabbis and prominent Jews… this is a private and personal meal in the Old Family Dining Room with just a few friends and Jewish staffers… who give the White House kitchen their family recipes. No traditional waiters, the President and First Lady pass the brisket… but the gefilte fish is already plated.
WHAT?! And with everything going on between Israel and the US right now?!
I guess we need to learn how it got started. Turns out three Jewish staffers on the campaign trail in 2008 were stuck. They couldn’t make it home for this BIG family holiday and wanted to connect with their ancestors. So they went to a basement room at a hotel with found matzah and Manischewitz to make a Seder… It started peachy… until they heard that undeniable voice behind them, “Is this the Seder?”
Obama and some African American staffers and friends came to join. Talk about sharing something… Jews and Blacks coming together to remember the slavery that they shared… thousands of years apart. Kinda like the camaraderie in the ’60’s between these two groups (read more about that and MLK here).
What I think is so cool about this is that it’s personal. Not for the press or the tourists or to make him look better to the Jews… it was something his staffers needed and he participated in and he kept it familial. His daughters ask the four questions and they all read together.
That’s what Pesach is about. We must teach our children the lessons of our people, our exodus from the land of Mitzrayim, Egypt. But we also must share with our neighbors. Some very Orthodox people hold the view that you shouldn’t invite non-Jews to a seder since while you are allowed to cook for yourself on this chag (or holiday… meaning that you usually can’t work or cook), you can’t cook for a non-Jew who can clearly cook for themselves… well… I respectfully disagree that this means you shouldn’t invite non-Jews. It is important to share our culture and traditions. When we close ourselves off, it leads to rumors of children’s blood in our matzah! (Not kidding. Read here & here)
And as usual, I find myself on a tangent. As a person who voted for Obama (I really don’t want to make this political), this is one of the reasons why I appreciate him so much. I feel like he actually cares to learn more about the salad that is the US of A. (We prefer salad to melting pot… a melting pot makes it all the same, a salad’s ingredients retain their personal identity while becoming a part of something bigger.)
So I hope Mr. President and his family and family of friends enjoy their Passover seder this year. And here’s to hoping there isn’t a Macaroon Security Standoff this year… hehe!
Originally posted on my blog at Patheos.
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