On Monday night, Passover, or “chag hamatzot” will begin. It is one of the most widely observed and important holidays of the Jewish calendar. But the Jews will not be alone in getting their haggadot and seder plates ready. President Obama, his family, and select others will be joining in on the fun as well.
Apparently, the White House Passover seder has been a “tradition” every year since 2010. My cursory research does not find any other examples of a U.S. President hosting a seder in the White House. While many people out there applaud this as a gesture of ultimate tolerance and open-mindedness, I just cringe.
One of the big issues with living in a multicultural country such as ours is learning not only to tolerate and love each other in spite of our differences….but to respect those differences as well. Even though you do not have to be religious to observe it (quite contrary), Passover is a Jewish holiday; and it is intrinsically tied into the Jews and their relationship with G-d.
Let’s turn the focus away from Passover, and over to Christmas. Christmas is a very popular holiday in the United States. However its foundation is Christian. Most Jews don’t formally celebrate Christmas…not because we are Scrooges, and hate Christmas carols and gifts (actually, a lot of us love those things!). But we do it out of respect. Respect for not only the fact that we are not Christians and this is not our holiday. But respect for the core meaning of Christmas; which is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
If the Obamas were Jewish, I would laud their seder in the White House. However, they are not. They have not been commanded to observe the holiday like the Jews have. Is it offensive? No, I wouldn’t go that far. However what type of message does it send? Should non-Jews who do not conduct seder feel less tolerant and open-minded than would be ideal? Again, what if the Obamas were Jewish, and they celebrated Christmas in the White House. How would that make other Jews feel? How would Christians feel?
Well I can’t speak for Christians, but as a Jewish women, I feel that Passover has been cheapened in this instance. By having non-Jews host a seder, it completely detracts from the fundamental idea that the observance of Passover was something G-d commanded to the Jews. It is our holiday. I don’t say this to be exclusive. Quite the contrary. What would have been better would have been for the President and his family to be guests at a Jewish family’s seder table. That way, he could still show everyone how tolerant he is; and still give due respect to the Passover holiday.
And finally, the biggest issue I have with this is that people can look at this and implore, “Hey, if a non-Jewish President can celebrate Passover, why can’t a Jew celebrate Easter?”. Well, that my friends, starts us down a very slippery slope of hating Jews because they refuse to ‘conform’.