Barack Obama seder - 18.4.2011
U.S. President Barack Obama hosting a seder in the White House, April 18, 2011. Photo by The White House
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WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle hosted a Passover seder at the White House Monday evening, with a small group of Jewish and non-Jewish staff and family members in attendance. This was the third consecutive year Obama has hosted a seder.

The tradition started in 2008 when, after a long day on the campaign trail, then-Senator Obama gathered a group of staff members together for an impromptu seder in Pennsylvania.

While this year's seder was not strictly kosher for Passover, it was "kosher style," with a menu put together by White House staff. Among the recipes were chicken soup with matza balls, braised beef brisket, potato kugel, carrot souffle and matza chocolate cake.

The White House kitchen did most of the cooking and the Maxwell House Haggadah (published by the coffee maker ) was used for the seder.

Earlier Monday, Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wish him and the citizens of Israel a happy Passover.

Netanyahu thanked Obama for approving the latest U.S. budget, which includes funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. The American president congratulated Netanyahu on the success of the system thus far.

Obama also emphasized that he appreciates the manner in which Netanyahu has been handling the recent events in and around Gaza. The two discussed various other issues and plan to speak again in the coming days.

Last week, Obama released a signed greeting wishing all those celebrating Passover a happy holiday. In his message, he likened the story of Passover to the revolutions sweeping the Middle East, saying "the passage of the children of Israel from bondage and repression to freedom and liberty" applies to the "modern stories of liberation in the Middle East."

Obama wished Jewish families around the world a happy Passover and urged everyone to work together to "alleviate the suffering, poverty, injustice, and hunger of those who are not yet free."