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GOP Candidate for Missouri Governor is a Ex-Navy SEAL, Rhodes Scholar and Jewish

Eric Greitens threw  his hat in the ring  this week announcing his run for the GOP  nomination in the 2016 Governor race in Missouri reported  the JTA/Forward Jewish Ex Navy Seal Decides to Run For Missouri Governor. This  follows the apparent suicide of a leading candidate, Tom Schweich, State Auditor. Greitens  is as Rhodes Scholar, National Humanitarian award winner and author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL.

A  Jewish Telegraph Agency profile of Greitens noted his  background and accomplishments:

Greitens, 40, is a former Navy SEAL, the recipient of seven military awards (including a bronze star and a purple heart), a former Rhodes Scholar and the founder of The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that helps veterans integrate themselves back into their communities through volunteer work. He served in Iraq from 2003 to 2007. His fourth book, “Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life,” published earlier this month, is a collection of inspirational letters to a fellow Navy SEAL struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Greitens  is a unusual American Jew. Ex-Navy Seal, Rhodes Scholar, Reform Congregation Member, well published author now running for the GOP nomination for Governor in Missouri. A Missouri torn by sectarian warfare over alleged racism in Ferguson and St. Louis County. Let’s hope that he wins the GOP primary for Governor in Missouri. His announced candidacy follows in the wake of the controversy surrounding the  apparent suicide in Mid-February  of respected  Republican State Auditor, Tom Schweich.  Just before suicide, Missouri politician fretted about rumors he was Jewish, amidst  a  whispering anti-Semitic campaign aimed at knocking him out of contention. Tom Schweich, had Jewish origins- his grandfather. Schweich was an Episcopalian.

The Forward reported:

Tom Schweich committed suicide right before he was supposed to file a complaint against another political figure, John Hancock, for spreading that he was Jewish in attempts to hurt his candidacy.

Just two days before the suicide, ex-navy seal Eric Greitens launched an exploratory committee to raise funds for the governor race. He has already obtained $400,000 for the GOP primary,

Although it is expected that he will run, Greitens has refused to give the public any details about his stance. He has declined requests on why he is running, what issues he wishes to tackle and the issues Missouri residents are concerned about.

These pressing topics include abortion rights, the state’s financial crisis and of course the Black Lives Matter movement that has been taking place in Ferguson, Missouri due to a young black man being shot by a police officer.

“Unfortunately Eric isn’t doing political interviews at this time,” said Greitens’ press officer, Adam Miller, when pressed on this. Miller indicated that the Navy SEAL, who has not yet officially declared his candidacy, was more focused right now on his promoting his book.

In his interview, Greitens was willing to go on the record with a clear statement about his religion. “I’m proud to be Jewish,” he told the Forward.

As to the controversy surrounding the  allegations of  a rumored anti-Semitic campaign against Schweich, the Forward noted:

Hancock, the chairman of the Missouri State Republican Committee, has admitted that he was one of those who had stated that Schweich was Jewish, but that it wasn’t supposed to be malicious

Though, former Republican U.S. Senator John Danforth, a dean of Missouri state politics, refuted that statement. Richard Fox, a Jewish donor to the Republican party in Missouri, has insisted that Hancock resign for his comments.

But Greitens declined to say whether Hancock should give up his position as chairman of the Missouri GOP. “Before I would make that determination I would want to talk with John Hancock and I would want to know more about what these accusations are,” he said.

As for allegations of anti-Semitism, Hancock said it was as simple as saying “I’m a Presbyterian and somebody else is Catholic,” but that it was intended to hurt anyone.

At least one Republican donor did not interpret it innocuously. In a sworn affidavit, David Humphreys said he understood Hancock to mean “that being Jewish is a negative attribute for Tom Schweich’s gubernatorial race.”

However, a detective involved in the police investigation of the suicide told the Associated Press that “we have not been able to prove that there was a whispering campaign.”

Greitens responded:

“It certainly could be that there are prejudices around,” said Greitens, the honest-to-goodness Jewish GOP gubernatorial candidate. “I can only speak to what I have lived, and I have experienced that people have been incredibly welcoming to me as a Jewish Republican.”

“There is no room for anti-Semitism in the Republican Party,” Greitens insisted, “and the leaders need to show that.”

We know from the deadly April 2014  attack , in adjacent Overland Park, Kansas  that Missouri harbors some anti-Semitic extremists. 

See our Iconoclast post, UPDATED: Blind Hate Cuts Down Three Lives at Kansas City Jewish Complex. The Kansas City metro area is also home to some anti-Semitic Muslims as well. Witness MD ‘rabbi’ Alam , a Bangladeshi Muslim émigré, who served in the U.S. Army to gain his citizenship, an anti- Semitic 9/11 ‘truther ‘who ran for the Secretary of State in Missouri in 2012 saying, “Not a Single Jew killed on 9/11”.

Our colleague Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, noted theologian and widely published author, commented about the difference between Schweich and Greitens:

It’s a pity and a waste that Schweich took his own life, but I would guess that he saw his conversion to Christianity as a way of escape. When the escape failed, he took his own life, I can’t blame Senator Danforth, but I would guess that Danforth had only a limited understanding of the psychological and cultural elements involved in religious identity. If Schweich had simply declared, “Yes, I have Jewish roots. That’s who I am. He might have retained his dignity and self-respect even if he lost the race  but he would have saved his life and his dignity. Win or lose, the former Navy Seal will never lose either his dignity or his self respect.

Greitens has something else in his stead for Missouri voters. He served his country with honor and distinction in combat. That  was grounded in his Jewish faith, the bedrock of American Judeo-Christian values.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Eric Greitens: “What’s beautiful about the military is that it’s probably the most well integrated institution on the planet.” ( Photo: Chloe Crespi)