Better leave two seats empty at the White House Passover Seder this year― one for Elijah the prophet, and one for the president.
President Donald Trump didn’t attend his staffers’ official Passover dinner on Monday, bucking the tradition that his predecessor Barack Obama started.
Obama both hosted and attended the Passover dinner every year of his presidency, a first for a sitting president. The tradition began during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he and several Jewish staffers held an impromptu Seder in Pennsylvania hotel.
Trump officially hosted Monday night’s Seder, but neither he nor his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner ― who are Jewish― joined. According to his schedule, the president is having dinner with military leaders on Tuesday, so it seems unlikely he’ll attend a Seder then, either.
His absence was surprising to people who thought he would attend because of his fraught history with Jewish people. Notably, his campaign received widespread endorsement from Nazi groups and anti-Semitic figures like David Duke and Richard Spencer. Trump eventually denounced their support, but that didn’t stop him from later using an anti-Semitic image in an tweet criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump has also been criticized by Jewish groups who liken his Syrian refugee ban to Holocaust-era policies. Trump’s America First slogan has anti-Semitic roots, too: It was popularized by citizens who opposed U.S. involvement in World War II. And the president even commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day with a statement that didn’t actually mention the Jewish people.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer shared a photo from the dinner, but didn’t explain the president’s absence.
Trump instead marked the night by tweeting “Chag Sameach”― the Hebrew way of saying “happy holidays”― to those celebrating. And Ivanka Trump shared a photo with her husband and kids honoring the day.