Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another Jewish Legislator

Senator George Allen, a Virginia Republican, issued a statement confirming his Jewish ancestry.

“I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line’s Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed,” Mr. Allen said in a statement.

The issue was injected into the campaign on Monday in a debate with Mr. Allen’s Democratic opponent, Jim Webb, when a panelist asked Mr. Allen, a former governor, if his mother was Jewish.

“To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don’t think it’s relevant,” he responded angrily.

But the campaign, which had earlier found itself on the defensive over Mr. Allen’s reference to a volunteer for Mr. Webb as “macaca,” apparently decided to try to defuse the issue quickly by putting out a statement acknowledging his family ties.

It was apparently the first time Mr. Allen, a practicing Presbyterian, had done so publicly, and he said he learned of his ancestry only through an article last month in The Forward, a Jewish publication.

“Some may find it odd that I have not probed deeply into the details of my family history, but it’s a fact,” Mr. Allen’s statement said. “We in the Allen household were simply taught that what matters is a person’s character, integrity, effort and performance — not race, gender, ethnicity or religion.”

Before the question arose in the debate, Mr. Allen had mentioned that a grandfather had been incarcerated by the Nazis. He said in his statement that he had never known the circumstances surrounding that chapter in his family history.

Who else now after Madeleine, William Sebastian and Allen?

And what about this anecdote?

When asked Monday what his trip this week to Ireland has to do with possible presidential ambitions, NY Mayor Bloomberg he dismissed any connection but then pointed out two notable presidents of Irish decent: John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. ''To the best of my knowledge, we've never had an independent candidate who was Irish ... or, for that matter, not Irish,'' he added.

(For the record, Bloomberg is neither Irish nor a member of a third party. He is Republican and Jewish, of Eastern European descent).

As reporters' ears perked up, he abruptly abandoned the presidential history lesson and tried to get back on track about the real reason he's going to Ireland, to dedicate a memorial to the ''Irish'' division of the ''Fighting 69th,'' the New York National Guard's 69th Infantry Regiment.

But a follow-up question reeled him back in -- what about becoming the first Jewish president?

The mayor ducked.

''Somebody once said when Barry Goldwater was running: 'That figures, the first Jewish president would be an Episcopalian' -- a very clever remark,'' he said.

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