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Virginia Senate candidates make their Jewish pitches

The two Virginia senatorial candidates showed this week how far they are willing to go for the Jewish vote. They clearly, really and truly, want all Virginia to know they stand strongly with Israel.

The Jewish Community Relations Councils of Greater Washington and Northern Virginia sponsored Monday’s breakfast with George Allen, the Republican candidate, and Wednesday’s lunch with Tim Kaine, the Democrat.

The timing of these question and answer sessions were requested by the candidates, according to a spokeswoman from the JCRC of Northern Virginia.

It was Allen who won the some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jewish round when he spoke fondly of a 2006 conversation with his mother only to learn that her father — his grandfather — was Jewish.

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Knowing all the discrimination Jews faced growing up in Nazi-occupied Tunisia, Allen’s mother told her son she had kept that fact a secret from “her babies” so they wouldn’t have to face anti-Semitism.

“People shouldn’t have to live with that kind of fear,” Allen said.

Both men vowed to work hard to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and spoke of conditioning any aid to Egypt on the maintenance of its peace treaty with Israel.

At various times, Allen, who already has been Virginia’s U.S. senator and governor, called Israel a friend and an ally and vowed, “There should be no light between two friends."

Kaine, who previously served as governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, promised to defend Israel, calling it “our closest ally in that part of the world.”

Kaine pleased his audience when he said his goal would be to show the world that Israel is not just a place bombarded with daily crises.

“We have a lot to learn from Israel,” he said, in terms of energy policies, how best to integrate gays into the military, new business startups and cultural issues.

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