Missouri's Republican Candidate for Governor Is a Jewish Navy Seal

Eric Greitens, a former Rhodes Scholar and Iraq War veteran says he’s 'proud to be Jewish,' sees entry into politics as an extension of tikkun olam.

Missouri Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens holds his son, Joshua, as he speaks to a crowd of supporters at the DoubleTree Hotel Chesterfield, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016.
Michael Thomas, AP

Eric Greitens, a Jewish former Navy SEAL, won the Republican Party primary for Missouri governor.

Greitens, who served in Iraq from 2003 to 2007 and is the recipient of seven military awards including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, defeated three opponents in Tuesday’s primary. He will face Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in November. The Democratic incumbent governor is ineligible to run again due to term limits.

Greitens is a former Rhodes Scholar with a PhD from Oxford. He is the author of four books including a collection of inspirational letters to a fellow Navy SEAL struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Greitens told the Forward in a March 2015 interview that “I’m proud to be Jewish.”

He said then that saw his entry into politics as an extension of the Jewish mandate of tikkun olam.

He added that “people have been incredibly welcoming to me as a Jewish Republican.”

He told JTA in an interview that he had many positive Jewish role models while growing up in the Maryland Heights suburb of St. Louis, where he attended the city’s B’nai El synagogue, a Reform congregation.

The Republican Jewish Coalition congratulated Greitens on his primary victory. “We look forward to ensuring he becomes the next Governor of Missouri. At a time when our country faces uncertainty at home and abroad, Commander Greitens’ service and leadership proves he is the right man for the job. Missourians would be lucky to have a man of his caliber lead their great state,” Matt Brooks, RJC executive director, said in a statement.

In February 2015, another Republican candidate for Missouri governor, Tom Schweich, killed himself shortly after telling journalists that a fellow party member was leading a whisper campaign saying he was Jewish, to hurt his chances in the primary with evangelical Christian voters. Schweich, who had a Jewish grandfather, was affiliated with the Episcopal Church.