Thursday, September 21, 2006

So George Allen Is Jewish after all

Does it make a difference? Not much, although one day it might to him.

Still, at the very least, it's an interesting story. His mother is from the well known Jewish Tunisian Lumbroso family. But after witnessing her father's treatment by the Nazi's, apparently she grew fearful of revealing her own Jewish past. And her husband to be, Senator Allen's father, wanted her to conceal it from his mother.

I think this distinguishes him from the Madeleine Albright method of coping with a Jewish past - she was entirely disingenuous when she "learned" that she was Jewish. Her Jewish first cousins later revealed that they had had a close relationship growing up, and that Madeleine was aware of her heritage at that point. But, later on, "forgot" about it when it wasn't convenient.

In contrast, Senator Allen appears in fact only to have learned about his Jewish background only last month. From an interview with Etty Allen, senator Allen's mother in today's Washington Post:
Henrietta "Etty" Allen said Wednesday that she concealed her upbringing as a Jew in North Africa from her children, including Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), until a conversation across the dining room table in late August.

She said Allen asked her directly about his Jewish heritage when he was in Los Angeles for a fundraiser. "We sat across the table and he said, 'Mom, there's a rumor that Pop-pop and Mom-mom were Jewish and so were you,' " she recalled...

"What they put my father through. I always was fearful," Etty Allen said in a telephone interview. "I didn't want my children to have to go through that fear all the time. When I told Georgie, I said, 'Now you don't love me anymore.' He said, 'Mom, I respect you more than ever.' "...

[H]is mother said she had sworn him to secrecy.

"I said, well, I just didn't want anyone to know," she explained. "I had said, 'Please don't tell your brothers and sister and your wife.' The fact this is such an issue justifies my actions, and my behavior."
It's pretty clear, after all the years of concealment, she is still feeling somewhat paranoid about this fact of her upbringing.

Now that it is out in the open, and assuming that Senator Allen survives his challenge by James Webb in November, I certainly hope to see him speaking up on issues concerning Israel.

Some fascinating historical details about the Lumbroso family, from an article in the Forward

According to information compiled from several Sephardic genealogical Web sites, the Lumbroso family originated in Portugal but made its way to Livorno, or Leghorn, in Italy after the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century. "Lumbroso" means "luminous" and is a translation of the Hebrew word "nehora."
...
Dr. Jeffrey Malka, an expert on Sephardic genealogy, told the Forward in an e-mail that in Portugal the Lumbrosos became conversos — unlike Spanish Jews, Portuguese Jews were not allowed to leave and were forcibly converted en masse — who escaped to Livorno, where they were able to return to Judaism. Malka called the Livorno community "fascinating" because, invited by the Medicis, they became wealthy and powerful traders, setting up branches in Tunis and ransoming Jews captured by Barbary pirates.

Among the most famous members of the family, Malka said, was Itzhak Lumbroso, an 18th-century rabbi and rabbinic judge who wrote a commentary on the Talmud, "Seed of Isaac," that was the first book printed in Hebrew in Tunis.
Not too shabby - I particularly like the effort to combat the barbary pirates. And the Talmud commentary is pretty neat, too.

A yeshivah teacher of mine once said, when the End of Days come, and we learn who actually was Jewish (and who wasn't Jewish who thought he was), there will be a lot of surprises. Certainly, George Allen is a surprise that way.

Our blog friend, Pillage Idiot, has compiled Top ten signs that Sen. Allen's mother is Jewish. And congrats to him for his guest blogging gig at Protein Wisdom.

I also learned yesterday that Barry Goldwater had a Jewish father. Didn't know that one either. His Jewish name was Baruch. There's a thread about it at Volokh's with some interesting comments.

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