Obama's seder praised by local religious leaders

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Local religious leaders applauded President Barack Obama's seder Thursday night at the White House, saying it imparted a sense of inclusion to other religions that historically have felt left out.

The traditional Jewish meal served during the holy time of Passover was hosted by Obama in the family dining room of the White House. A spokesman said the administration believes it is the first seder held at the White House hosted by a sitting president.

"I think it's wonderful," said Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum of Temple Israel in Lawrence. "By conducting a seder in the White House, he is sending a message of respect to all peoples of faith, and showing that we need to accept and appreciate each other more and judge each other less."

While Obama was the host, the meal was organized by Eric Lesser, an aide to senior adviser David Axelrod. First lady Michelle Obama and the couple's two daughters, Sasha and Malia, were also there.

"Guests included a small number of family, friends, and staff - many of whom had been present, along with the president, at an impromptu seder in a hotel basement in Pennsylvania during the primaries," the spokesman said.

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Rabbi Steven Moss, of B'nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, applauded Obama's decision to hold the seder. "The message of Passover, the message of freedom for all human beings, is a universal message, and our prayer is that it rings true for all humankind this coming year," Moss said.

Scholars of Christian theology say it is important for Christians to understand Jewish beliefs and customs since Christianity is based on them. "It is impossible to understand the Eucharist without understanding the Passover meal," said the Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, who added that the White House seder "shows respect and solidarity."

The National Jewish Democratic Council also praised the event.

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"By hosting the first presidential seder in America's history, President Barack Obama shows the personal and deep relationship he has with the Jewish community," Alexis Rice, the group's deputy executive director, told The Associated Press. "There is no question, Obama is a true friend of the Jewish community."

This story was supplemented with an Associated Press report.

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