Former GOP Sen. George Allen (Va.) this week embraced the Jewish roots he never knew he had until four years ago.
At the Reston Hyatt-Regency outside Washington, the former lawmaker on Thursday addressed followers of the Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement whose members are encouraged to nudge non-observant Jews into adopting Orthodox customs.
Allen, who's preparing a 2012 run to reclaim his seat from Democratic Sen. Jim Webb (Va.), was only too happy to comply, dining on kosher chicken and blowing a shofar for the benefit of the assembled, The Washington Post reported.
Allen's prepared remarks featured a long-winded introduction on the topics of football, freedom, Ronald Reagan and his own Jewish sympathies — even before learning of his Jewish heritage. (Washington's Holocaust Museum, he said referring to a visit in the 1990s, is "the best museum.")
Only afterward did Allen get into the meat of the address: "The family revelation" that his mother had hidden her Jewish lineage until Allen confronted her directly amid his 2006 reelection bid against Webb.
Allen described the encounter in his remarks:
"After this last of my innocent, cross-examination questions in between spoons of cereal, my mother very seriously told me that she would tell me 'something' but only if I swore not to tell anyone," he said. "She insisted that I 'swear' on Pop-pop’s [her father's] head that I tell no one. … My mother then haltingly told me that 'Pop-pop was Jewish.'"
It was, Allen said, "a fascinating discovery."
"From that day forward, the core principle of freedom of conscience, beliefs and religion was no longer a matter of enlightened philosophy to me," he said, according to the remarks. "It became deeply personal in my heart-wrenching realization of how fear and persecution so tormented my loving, loyal mother’s life."
The revelation was especially "interesting," Allen added, "because I majored in history and have been a leader for nanotechnology."