A Welcome Retreat: Reston Town Center hosts National Jewish Retreat.
A Welcome Retreat
Reston Town Center hosts National Jewish Retreat.
By Alex McVeigh
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
The National Jewish Retreat came to Reston this year, where hundreds of Jewish adults, teenagers and children came to enjoy five days of inspirational programs. Former Virginia Governor George Allen and Reston founder Robert E. Simon were among the local luminaries invited to speak at the event.
The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute organized the annual retreat, which moves around the country each year. For organizers, Reston gave them a chance to check out a new, urban center that is also close to the nation’s capital.
"The people of Reston, including Mr. Simon himself, were very gracious to us during the retreat, if we could, we would come back every year," said Bruce Backman, liaison for the retreat, who helped choose the location.
"People have loved walking around Reston Town Center this week, and our guests have enjoyed the experience very much.
ALLEN, who in 2006 discovered his Jewish lineage, spoke to most of them at dinner Aug. 19.
"It was four years ago, about this time, that my mother revealed to me her family’s Jewish ancestry," Allen said.
Allen was in the midst of a campaign for governor when the rumors began to surface, and his mother admitted it to him, but swore him to secrecy. He described hearing the rumors, then asking his mother about them over breakfast one morning.
"My mother very seriously told me she would tell me something, but only if I swore not to tell anyone. No one," he said. "[Then] my mother haltingly told me that ‘Pop-pop was Jewish.’"
Allen described himself as "surprised," and said he wondered why it was such a secret. Allen said his mother, even sixty years after World War II, was still afraid of prejudice.
"It hurt my heart to see the pain my mother was experiencing … and how she had lived over 60 years with this fear that was born and seared into the life of a teenage girl in the early 1940s," Allen said. "From that day forward, the core principle of freedom of conscience, belief and religion …became deeply personal in my heartwrenching realization how fear and persecution so tormented my long, loyal mother’s life."
SIMON came to breakfast the next morning, and spoke of how honored he was that Reston was chosen for the location. He was recognized with a special reproduction of a Torah scroll.
"It’s wonderful to know that Reston is being honored by this organization," he said.
Even the management at the hotel was honored that Reston was chosen to host such a massive, annual event.
"This is one of the largest learning symposiums in the country, and we’re thrilled and honored they chose to come here," said David Eisenman, general manager of the Hyatt at Reston Town Center, where the retreat was held.