Photo: Pete Souza, The White House / AP Photo
President Obama is hosting his third annual White House Seder on the first night of Passover, April 18, 2011, complete with a full Seder menu including brisket, noodle kugel and macaroons.
The tradition started in a windowless basement of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Sheraton , during the April 2008 campaign, when Eric Lesser, then Ground Logistic Coordinator (he's now the Director of Strategic Planning for Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers), got his hands on an "emergency Seder kit" from the University of Pennsylvania's Hillel Center. As Lesser and his fellow campaign staffers Arun Chaudhary and Herbie Ziskend were about to begin the Seder, Obama asked if he could join.
Instead of ending the meal with the customary "Next year in Jerusalem," Obama said "Next year in the White House." True to his word, the Seder continues at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Since the campaign, the Seder has upgraded its locale to much nicer digs, but the original founders can still be found around the table. Last year, the Obamas hosted about 20 guests, all of whom took turns reading the Haggadah. Sasha found the Afikomen and was also "a champ" at answering questions from the Haggadah text, said then-Senior Advisor David Axelrod.
Many of the recipes were provided by Seder guests, which included family friends of the Obamas, as well as White House staffers and family members.