U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on Friday delivered a Passover greeting to Jews around the world, emphasizing the importance of the uplifting message of hope associated with the Jewish holiday amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We know you're all setting the Seder table with heavy hearts, but also with hope for the year ahead," the president said, sitting beside his wife in a message recorded at the White House.
"As we seek to rebuild from the time of struggle and loss, we need the inspiration of the Passover now, more than ever,” he said.
"Passover is a story of overcoming adversity and finding hope. Of summoning the resilience and resolve to emerge from a long dark night to a brighter morning,” First Lady Dr. Biden said.
“And it's a story of faith. That even in the face of oppression, better days lie ahead. This celebration is Jewish, but its message is universal. It resonates from generation to generation,” she said.
The president also said that Passover would also highlight the toll of coronavirus, which has claimed more than a half a million lives in the U.S. and has seen families separated from one another all over the world.
"This year, like last, we're still planning virtual celebrations, blessing the matzah and wine over the screen rather than side by side," said Biden.
"There are still some grandparents who haven't been able to embrace their grandchildren since the last Passover. And there are far, far too many empty chairs at our Seder. A solemn reminder of all that we've lost," he said.
"We can close the Seder by adapting a familiar refrain - not only next year in Jerusalem, but next year in person. Next year, together."
The White House on Thursday also held its first virtual Seder, led by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish.
"We are gathered today for the first Passover celebration of the Biden-Harris administration and I'm excited to join you as the first ever second gentleman, married to the first woman to serve as vice president of the United States. And as the first Jewish spouse of a president or a vice president," Emhoff said.
CNN quoted a White House official as saying that Emhoff "obviously recognizes the significance of being the first in this space and I think he's very honored to have the opportunity to help lead some of these really important and significant traditions."
The Zoom Seder, which drew in a reported audience of some 10,000 people, was led by Rabbi Sharon Brous of the IKAR non-denominational synagogue in Los Angeles.
The president also briefly appeared, repeating his message that of the finding hope in the message of Passover.
“As we seek to rebuild from a time of struggle and loss, we need the inspiration of the story of Passover now,” he said.
It was the first time since the end of the Obama presidency in 2016 that the White House has held a Passover Seder.