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Obama, the Interpreter of the Message of Passover

Passover recalls the bondage and suffering of Jews in Egypt and the miracle of the Exodus, but Obama says its message is seen in Muslim uprisings.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 4/18/2011, 2:19 PM / Last Update: 4/18/2011, 2:15 PM

Passover recalls the bondage and suffering of Jews in Egypt and the miracle of the Exodus, the unique redemption  whose goal was a G-d given way of life to be led in the Holy Land, but U.S. President Barack Obama says its message is reflected in Muslim uprisings.

In his annual message, prior to his third straight participation in the Passover Seder, President Obama stated, “The story of Passover…instructs each generation to remember its past, while appreciating the beauty of freedom and the responsibility it entails. This year that ancient instruction is reflected in the daily headlines as we see modern stories of social transformation and liberation unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Having constructed a link between the Arab uprisings and Chosen People's experiencing the miracles of the Creator that led them out of Egypt and towards the receiving of the Ten Commandments, the President concluded, "As Jewish families gather for this joyous celebration of freedom, let us all be thankful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us, and let us work to alleviate the suffering, poverty, injustice, and hunger of those who are not yet free.”

For good measure, he also added the Hebrew term “Chag Samayach,” which means “Have a happy holiday.”

President Obama chanced into a Seder during his presidential campaign in 2008, when the polls were not in his favor. At the end of the Seder, when Jews chanted, "Next year in Jerusalem,” Obama responded, “Next year in the White House.”

His attendance at the Seder resulted in his meeting with Eric Lesser, one of his Jewish backers, according to Lauren Salkeld, writing for the epicurious.com website. Despite the heavy campaign schedule, Lesser and two friends organized a makeshift Seder in a hotel basement. As they began, Obama popped in and asked, “Is this a Seder? Can I join?”

After having made it the White House, President Obama held another Seder last year, complete with all of the Jewish customs, and plans to do so again this year in the White House’s Old Family Dining Room.

The phenomenon of non-Jews arranging and participating in Seders in the United States has spread so much that Diane Cole wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week, “Is Passover the new Christmas,” referring to the dilution of Hanukah by detached Jews and non-Jews who try to mix the two holidays together as part of “brotherhood.”

Cole wrote that even many churches today hold their own Seders, despite the exclusive Jewish concept of remembering slavery and Exodus.

“What makes Christians' embrace of Passover all the more unusual is that for centuries—even into the 20th—the holiday's proximity to Good Friday and Easter routinely sparked violent anti-Jewish riots and pogroms, especially in Europe,” she wrote. It was also the holiday that sparked the infamous blood libels that claimed that Jews, who are expressly forbidden in the Bible from consuming even animal blood, killed Christian children to use their blood for making matzos.

However, the fight for the end of segregation in the United States in the 1950s led to the black community’s adaptation of “Let my people go.” The slogan now is a favorite banner of leftists, who twist it around to apply it to Palestinian Authority Arabs.

Cole also noted that the high rate of intermarriage in the United States has led to a dilution of Passover customs at the Seder, which is held at home and gives intermarried families an opportunity to mix their faiths and sometimes even Christianize the Seder, particularly at churches.