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Is Obama really Jewish?

April 9, 2009 |  7:54 am

Barack Obama at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem in July 2008

President Obama is to attend what is believed to be the first White House Passover Seder in the family dining room of the White House official — and it's not his first.

Last year, as Obama was battling now-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the hotly-contested Pennsylvania primary, some Jewish staffers couldn't get home in time for Passover. So,  like the Jews fleeing Egypt in haste, they scrambled to prepare an impromptu Seder in the Sheraton in Harrisburg; they ordered room service.

The Obamas, members in good standing of the liberal enclave of Chicago known as Hyde Park, had attended Seders before. And last year, Obama brought aide Valerie Jarrett and family friend Marty Nesbitt to the impromptu Seder in Pennsylvania. They all plan to attend the friends-and-family Seder tonight at the White House, and 24-year-old Eric Lesser, who handled baggage call during the campaign and now works for special assistant David Axelrod, will lead the service.

The Passover story, with its Exodus themes of liberation and social justice, is a good fit for Team Obama. But one can only imagine how confusing this will be for critics who insist that the Christian president is really a Muslim.

One side note: At the end of the Seder it's traditional to say, "Next Year in Jerusalem." But last year, the campaign crowd ended its service with "Next Year in the White House." This year, one aide said, the staff will use the holiday to reflect "on all that has happened in our lives since last year's Seder in Harrisburg." 

Why is this night different from other nights? President Clinton's staff held Seders, but he did not attend, making the Obamas the first to host a Seder at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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