WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle host their fourth Passover seder at the White House on Friday, and I confirmed Tuesday that the Maxwell House Haggadah will again be used.
Obama’s Passover Seder tradition started during the 2008 presidential campaign by a group of staffers who found themselves in Harrisburg, Pa., for the primary as the first seder loomed.
That 2008 hastily organized seder was led by Eric Lesser, now a Harvard Law School student who served stints in the campaign and at the White House as David Axelrod’s assistant and at the White House Council of Economic Advisors. The campaign staffers invited then Sen. Obama, used the Maxwell House Haggadah because that’s what they could get on short notice and created a tradition that has endured.
The core of the small number of guests has stayed the same through the years: the staffers and advisers who were at the 2008 seder in Pennsylvania. The White House announced the seder last Friday.
The first night of Passover is Friday and seders everywhere will use a Haggadah – a book outlining the order of the elements of the seder. Haggadahs can be long or short, traditional or modern, relate to current events or not, have a lot or a little Hebrew.
The Maxwell House Haggadah – published in various editions since 1932 by Maxwell House Coffee – covers all the basics, is very short and is easy to obtain–free at supermarkets. (Maxwell House is now part of Kraft Foods, Inc. headquartered in the Chicago suburb of Northfield.)
I broke the news in 2009 that the Obama seder used the Maxwell House Haggadah and there has been some interest in what Haggadah the Obama seder uses ever since. A few weeks ago journalist Jeffrey Goldberg – at the end of an interview about the Mideast–handed Obama a Haggadah he was touting, the New American Haggadah.
Obama asked, according to Goldberg, “Does this mean we can’t use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?” Does not in the White House.