Trump to keep Obama Passover custom alive with Seder Monday
Annual event started in 2009 to be hosted under new president, unclear if Jewish relatives or administration officials will attend
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump will host a White House Passover seder Monday night, an administration official told The Times of Israel on Sunday, confirming that the new administration will continue a tradition started by former president Barack Obama.
It is not yet clear which members of the administration will participate in the dinner, including Trump’s Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka.
The White House Seder began as an annual tradition under former president Barack Obama, who hosted the first such event in 2009, in the Old Family Dining Room.
News that the Trump administration had planned to carry on the custom was first reported by Jewish Insider.
Obama sought to establish this ritual after he participated in a Passover dinner during his successful 2008 presidential campaign, when he surprised Jewish members of his campaign staff by holding an impromptu seder in a hotel ballroom in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Beyond his immediate family, Trump has several Jewish administration officials who could partake in the dinner, including Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and Senior Adviser Stephen Miller.
Monday night will mark the first night of Passover for Jews around the world, who will gather around tables for the traditional feast centered around retelling the story of the ancient Jews’ exodus from Egypt.
Many Jews around the world traditionally hold two seders on successive nights, while Jews in Israel have only one.
Obama often invited Jewish members of staff to join in his seder, including David Axelrod and Ben Rhodes. Some of his aides reportedly consulted with White House chefs over family recipes for traditional Passover cuisine.
Non-Jewish members of Obama’s administration, such as Valerie Jarrett, were known to join in the dinner, as well.
Last year, the White House seder was delayed until after Passover to accommodate Obama’s travel schedule.
One of the hallmarks of the Obama seder — which was held every year of his eight-year presidency — was using the ubiquitous Maxwell House Haggadah and a glass kiddush cup that former first lady Michelle Obama was given by rabbi in Prague.
Trump is the first president with immediate family members who are Jewish. His daughter Ivanka married Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, in 2009. Before tying the knot, she underwent a rigorous Orthodox conversion process under the tutelage of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein at the Upper East Side’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun.
The two — who observe Shabbat and keep kosher — have raised their three children, the youngest of whom was born last March, Jewish.
When the family moved to Washington, their oldest daughter, Arabella, began attending Jewish Primary Day School. Both now work in the administration; Kushner is a senior adviser to the president and Ivanka, as of last week, is an official assistant to the president.