President Donald Trump did not attend the annual White House Passover Seder held on Monday night, a spokeswoman confirms to PEOPLE.
“The event was really for the staff who were unable to get home to spend the holiday with their families,” White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom tells PEOPLE, adding that Monday night’s Seder was attended by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Jeremy Katz, deputy director of the National Economic Council.
Strom added that, “Unlike the previous administration’s celebrations, all food was prepared by a kosher for Passover catering company and other kosher guidelines were followed as closely as possible. There were about 35 people in attendance, both Jewish staff and their families who wanted to celebrate the holiday and non-Jewish staff who were interested in learning about the traditions.”
The annual Passover Seder was started by Jewish staffers in the Obama administration, The Washington Post reported. Three young aides held the first Seder at a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, hotel during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — and were surprised when Obama himself showed up to the event. Obama went on to host and attend the White House Passover Seder every year of his presidency, The Huffington Post reported.
In 2012, the Obama White House released a statement recounting the origins of the annual Seder.
“At the end of the Seder, the President followed the traditional ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ declaration with a pledge of his own – ‘Next year in the White House,’ ” the statement read. “Each year since, he has followed through on that promise.”
The statement also noted that in 2012, Obama “added a new touch” — “a video message to Jews everywhere wishing them Chag Sameach as they continue their own traditions or start new ones this Passover.”
Trump is the first president with immediate family members who are Jewish, according to The Washington Post. Ivanka, who converted to Judaism before marrying Kusher, an Orthodox Jew, in 2009, marked the holiday by sharing a family photo on Twitter.
“During #Passover, we reflect on the significance of the exodus from Egypt and celebrate the great freedoms we enjoy today! #ChagPesach,” she captioned the snapshot of her and Kushner with their three young children, Arabella, Theodore and Joseph.
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The president also sent out a “Happy Passover” tweet on Monday:
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted a photo from Monday night’s Trump-less Seder.
“This evening, @WhiteHouse staff held a Passover Seder, marking first night of Passover,” he wrote.