Macaca’ Senator’s Jewish Heritage


In a strange political year, the U.S. Senate race in Virginia is rapidly moving into the realm of the surreal.

First there was Republican Sen. George Allen’s mystifying use of the term “macaca” in referring to a young, dark-skinned worker for his opponent, former Reaganite-turned-Democrat Jim Webb.

Macaca, according to many news reports, refers to a kind of monkey, and is a racially derogatory term in some parts of the world; Allen, who has 2008 presidential aspirations if he can just hold on to his Senate seat, said he just made the word up.

Then there was his reportedly oddball performance in this week’s televised debate. Asked about reports in the Forward that his mother was a Tunisian Jew, he turned on the reporter with barely concealed pique.

“I’d like to ask you: why is that relevant? My religion, Jim’s religion or the religion of anybody out there.”

He went on to say that “my mother was French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her. I’ve been raised, and she was raised, as far as I know, as a Christian.”

But on Tuesday, the Allen campaign posted a new statement confirming that he does, in fact, have 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,” he wrote.

Will Jews in his family tree help or hurt his troubled campaign?

Virginia political observers say predictions in this weirdest of campaigns are difficult, except for this one: it ain’t over yet