By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Great back story on tonight's White House Seder, which Obama aides say is a first for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from NBC's First Read:
The Seder, it turns out, is a fulfillment of a vow that a small group of Obama campaign staff made during their Seder last year, on April 19.
Unable to go home for the holidays, the group of about 10 held an impromptu Seder in the basement of the Sheraton Hotel in Harrisburg, Pa., as the Obama campaign neared the end of its long primary campaign battle in the state.
Obama participated in the Jewish ritual, along with a few friends who were traveling with him that day. At the end of the ritual, after the traditional refrain "Next year in Jerusalem!" Sen. Obama and others in the group jokingly added, "Next year in the White House!"
So this year's Seder "is meant not only to celebrate the holiday but also to reflect on all that has happened in our lives" since the Harrisburg Seder, the official said.
The JTA reports that the meal will be a mix of White House-prepared foods and BYO:
...the food will be "kosher-style," with the White House kitchen staff preparing the food and guests bringing additional dishes.
And the Associated Press has the guest list and more details on the food. The most interesting detail here is that the Seder is happening even though Obama's top Jewish aides—Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod—have other plans:
President Barack Obama is inviting close friends and staff to a private White House meal Thursday to mark Passover, a signal that the new president intends to fulfill his promise that Jewish voters would have an ally.
Among the invited is Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's closest advisers, and family friend Eric Whitaker, who is visiting from Chicago and attended a Seder last year with the campaign. Michelle Obama and the family's two daughters also plan to attend.
The staff guest list includes aides from the campaign trail who marked last year's Passover at the Sheraton hotel in Harrisburg, Pa. Obama's personal aide, Reggie Love, Michelle Obama's deputy chief of staff, Melissa Winter, personal aide Dana Lewis and associate social secretary Samantha Tubman all received invitations.
Also on the guest list are Eric Lesser, a personal aide to senior adviser David Axelrod, and his family. Lesser worked during the New Hampshire primary and later handled baggage for traveling reporters. White House videographer Arun Chaundhary—a constant presence on the trail—landed invitations for his family.
Others in the exclusive group include Michelle Obama's counsel and friend Susan Sher; Herbie Ziskend, a staff assistant to Vice President Joe Biden's policy and economic advisers; and White House deputy director of advance and special events Lisa Kohnke.
Two of the administration's highest-profile members of the Jewish faith plan to miss the dinner. Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel doesn't plan to attend and Axelrod expects to be in Chicago with his family.
The White House says the Seder meal will be traditional, including matzo, bitter herbs, a roasted egg and greens in the family dining room in the executive mansion. The evening will feature the reading of the Haggadah, the religious text of the holiday.
Passover began at sundown Wednesday. It celebrates the Jewish exodus from Egypt after 400 years of slavery.
White House aides say they believe this is the first president-hosted Seder at the White House. President Bill Clinton's aides planned Seders, but Clinton isn't known to have attended.