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Office of the Press Secretary
April 14, 2014

Statement from the President on Passover

Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world.

On Tuesday, just as we have every year of my presidency, my family will join the millions taking part in the ancient tradition of the Seder.  We will enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, retell a timeless story, and give thanks for the freedom we are so blessed to enjoy.

Yet even as we celebrate, our prayers will be with the people of Overland Park, Kansas and the family and friends of the three innocent people who were killed when a gunman, just one day before Passover, opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement home on Sunday.  As Americans, we will continue to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  We will continue to come together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, that can lead to hatred and violence.  And we will never lose faith that compassion and justice will ultimately triumph over hate and fear.

For that is one of the great lessons of the Exodus.  The tale of the Hebrew slaves and their flight from Egypt carries the hope and promise that the Jewish people have held in their hearts for thousands of years, and it is has inspired countless generations in their own struggles for freedom around the globe.  

In America, the Passover story has always had special meaning.  We come from different places and diverse backgrounds, but we are bound together by a journey from bondage to liberty enshrined in our founding documents and continued in each generation.  As we were so painfully reminded on Sunday, our world is still in need of repair, but the story of the Exodus teaches us that with patience, determination, and abundant faith, a brighter future is possible.

Chag Sameach.


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Comment Preferences

  •  What? No statement on Samhain? (0+ / 0-)

    Plus he forgot to lament the deaths of the Egyptian babies in the Passover story.  How that part of the story gets "passed over" in the conversation about how freedom from slavery was obtained is beyond me.

    Thomas Jefferson said that it is wrong for a civil governmental leader to get involved in endorsing or even marking religious ceremonies. And part of that problem is that some group always gets left out.  Obama should know this, but once again, he demonstrates his lack of sensitivity to minor religious people, non-believers, and the intent of the writers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights by using his office to draw attention to one particular religion's traditions.  

    •  Isn't Samhain in the fall? (0+ / 0-)

      As part of our Passover Seder, we ceremonially remove wine from our cups as we recite the plagues, to symbolize that our joy is diminished by the suffering of the Egyptians.

      Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

      by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 11:06:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, Samhain is celebrated (0+ / 0-)

        from sunset Oct. 31 to sunset Nov. 1. My point being that it is wrong for the President to use his position to recognize some religions and not others just because those religions represent a majority of people or a politically powerful group of people (note that there are far more atheists in the US than Jews). It flies in the face of the whole idea of separation of church and state, and Madison and Jefferson (and others) would be appalled at seeing this practice.

        Obama was quoted today in the paper as saying that we are "all children of God, all made in his image and all worthy of his love and dignity." So he seems determined to expand his role as "minister in chief" and say things that are totally vexing to non-believers and insulting to those of other minority faiths.  He is the first and only President to expand the Easter season observances into the White House with a Prayer breakfast (totally inappropriate) and holding Seders (6 times now). I don't understand why Jewish people would be happy about the use of government to actually host a religious celebration.  I thought most Jewish people understand and strongly support separation of church and state.

        Glad to hear you give a nod to the Egyptian babies. However, Moses and his tribes went on to attack other groups all over the region with God/Yahweh as his war advisor.  How do you ignore all that? And how can the President characterize the story of the Exodus and Moses leading his people to freedom as a some totally noble ideal.  It's not a nice story.

        •  Well, I would have no objection to the president (0+ / 0-)

          being entirely neutral regarding religion. But I don't know of any president in modern history who has held to Thomas Jefferson's words. In the context of modern America, where Christianity is dominant, and given that the president is already celebrating Easter, I don't object to him personally celebrating Passover as well. Presidents and other politicians repeatedly invoke God and religion. I would be fine if that weren't the case, especially considering I am an atheist myself.

          Regarding the passover celebration and stories, first of all this is mythology, not history. Given that, I don't see a real problem with minimizing elements which are contrary to our values, while emphasizing those that celebrate and support values we agree with. There are parts of the traditional Passover Haggadah which are quite vindictive, probably written at a time when the Jews were being particularly persecuted. In my family we chose not to read those passages, and choose alternate modern readings instead. It has always been Jewish tradition to reinterpret the stories, but the tradition does not favor discarding the uncomfortable parts but finding some way to deal with them in a contemporary context. This goes back to the time of the Talmud, and even before.

          Even though I don't believe in the literal truth of the stories (which is the case with many Jews), they have helped shape my values. Of course the story of Moses leading his people to freedom expresses a noble ideal. The fact is that there are parts of the stories, that someone 2500 or so years ago chose to include, that seem repugnant to us now. But why must we be fundamentalists and take every word as literal truth?

          Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

          by AaronInSanDiego on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 12:15:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks for taking the time to reply. (0+ / 0-)

            I appreciate the conversation.  I guess the answer to the last question is because cherry picking leads to conflict, especially when stories are considered "holy" or special in some way.  It inadvertently sets up a situation where the more "liberal" groups that favor the non-fundamentalists views are actually enabling those views by still elevating those texts as a guide to living and/or marking celebrations.  When liberal Christians or Muslims lament the fundamentalists among them, I always feel like pointing out that it is the texts themselves that give authority to both views and are the very basis of the problem.

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