For the seventh year in a row, US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the annual White House Passover Seder on Friday, with Jewish staff and officials in attendance.
The Obamas joined their guests in what the White House described as the “retelling of the Israelites’ arduous journey through the desert from slavery in Egypt to liberation in the Promised Land.”
Susan Barocas, a Jewish Washington-based chef, assisted White House chefs in preparing the Seder meal that reflected both Ashkenazi and Sephardic holiday traditions (“Moroccan haroset balls”). The menu also incorporated several family recipes provided by the Seder’s attendees, the White House said in a statement.
Guests dined on dishes such as gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzoh balls, carrot soufflé, savory holiday brisket, seared salmon with roasted artichokes, roasted potatoes with garlic and onion, and — for dessert — macaroons.
In his annual Passover message Friday, Obama tied the Exodus story to the US Civil Rights struggle in America, saying the tale “has inspired countless generations over the years.”
“The Israelites’ journey to freedom required them to choose faith over fear and courage over complacency,” he said after sending his and First Lady Michelle’s greetings to Jews in the US, Israel, and around the world.
“Above all, it required the works of an awesome God, who led them out of bondage with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
“The story of the Exodus – the signs and wonders that appeared when hope seemed lost, the Jewish people’s abiding belief that they would one day reach the Promised Land – has inspired countless generations over the years. It inspired Jewish families to hold fast to their faith, even during times of terrible persecution. It inspired young Civil Rights leaders as they marched across an Alabama bridge in search of their own Promised Land, half a century ago.”
The Exodus from Egypt continues to inspire today, said Obama.
“Like the Israelites who Moses led out of slavery long ago, it is up to us to never lose faith in the better day that lies ahead. In our own country, we can continue our march toward a more perfect union. Around the world, we can seek to extend the miracles of freedom and peace, prosperity and security, to more of God’s creation. And together, we can continue the hard but awesome work of tikkun olam, and do our part to repair the world.”
Passover started Friday evening, and is celebrated for seven days in Israel, and eight days in the rest of the world.