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Sen. George Allen tells audience in Fairfax, Va., that learning of his Jewish heritage brought him new perspective

6:01 PM, Oct 22, 2012   |    comments
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FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA) - Former Virginia Governor George Allen has a new perspective. He now feels a personal connection to Jewish people worldwide.

In his opening remarks at the Jewish Community Center in Fairfax Monday morning, Allen spoke of learning about his Jewish heritage from his mother, in 2006 when he was running for re-election to the Senate.

"She revealed to me what she had concealed for many years and that was that my grandfather was Jewish," Allen told the crowd of about 50.

"She had me swear on Pop-Pop's head that I won't tell anyone," said Allen, telling the listeners that she was fearful of people knowing about her religion because of the persecution her family faced by the Nazis who imprisoned her father.

During the 2006 campaign, journalists had inquired about Allen's Jewish heritage, but received no response. They wondered if the Senator was hiding his background for political gain.

Six years ago at a Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate, this reporter was the panelist who asked Senator Allen about his Jewish heritage. He had not revealed it yet, thought it was unfair and responded aggressively. He encouraged the boos that began when I asked, "Could you please tell us whether your forebears include Jews and at which point Jewish identity might have ended?"

He accused me of casting aspersions and said that his mother was raised Christian. He revealed the truth the next day. Now, he says my question was fair game and water under the bridge.

"The fact that this has been revealed has been a blessing to our family. Susan (his wife) calls it a treasure trove. It's allowed our family to talk to my mother, she'll talk more openly, and learning more about our family heritage."

George Allen has apologized for his biggest mistake in the 2006 campaign, when he infamously called a young man of Indian descent "Macaca." Several of those in the JCC audience say they saw a more humble and mature candidate on Monday.

"He just didn't run off the mouth, like he used to. He thought before he spoke," said Marsha Reiser, a JCC member and so far, an Allen supporter, though she voted for Jim Webb six years ago.

Written and reported by Peggy Fox, 9News and WUSA9.com

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