Ms. Tubman and Desiree Rogers, then the White House social secretary, tried to plan an informal meal last year, with little or even no wait staff required. White House ushers reacted with what seemed like polite horror. The president and the first lady simply do not serve themselves, they explained.
Why the hell not? When did the White House become Buckingham Palace?
Some people may dismiss this as a fluff or PR piece, particularly giving Obama's present stand-off with the Israeli government. But I rather like the idea-- which may be partially the result of spin, certainly-- of Obama being both intellectually curious and wanting to share with the rituals of other people. As described in the NY Times, Obama's seder has a feeling of actual engagement that I never got, for instance, from Bush's Hanukkah celebrations. And of course, it's nice to see Jewish content getting some national exposure. I personally think the concept of "The White House's first seder" is a very cool one, and the fact that Obama and his aides are choosing to do it because they feel like it, and not as a heavy-handed cattle-call to prominent DC or national-level Jewish leaders, actually makes it feel authentic. It doesn't matter that Obama isn't Jewish; he's interested in Passover and he's going to celebrate it his way, with friends and family. I think there's something quite touching about that.
Anyway, hearing about Obama's seder was quite timely, as Shiksa Girlfriend and I are getting ready to host Passover for the third year in a row. We've even written a new version of our Haggadah. I'll post my Maggid section next.