Eric Greitens, Missouri’s first Jewish governor, a Republican, on Tuesday defeated his state’s Attorney General Chris Koster with 51 percent of the vote. Greitens, a retired former Navy Seal, made many headlines for his aggressive gun-toting and, most notably, gun assembling, and not at all for the fact that he is Jewish.
The son of Becky and Rob Greitens, Eric Greitens was born in 1974 in St. Louis, Missouri, and in high school was member of the 1995 USA Today All-USA Academic Team. He was an Angier B. Duke Scholar at Duke University, where he studied ethics, philosophy, and public policy. After graduating in 1996, he was selected as a Rhodes and Truman Scholar.
Greitens attended Naval Officer Candidate School in January 2001, and in 2002 graduated Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. He is a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Reserve, and has been deployed four times to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. He served as the commander of a joint special operations task unit, commander of a Mark V Special Operations Craft detachment, and commander of an al Qaeda targeting cell.
His personal military awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
According to the Riverfront Times, religion was never an issue in Greitens’s gubernatorial campaign. Which is uncanny, considering the fact that Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, who was running for governor, committed suicide in February 2015, believing he was the victim of a “whisper campaign” that he was Jewish. Schweich, an Episcopalian, had some Jewish roots, but who doesn’t?
Schweich blamed Missouri Republican Party chairman John Hancock for the rumors, which Hancock denied. And Hancock says he is “as proud as I can be” of Greitens’ victory, which demonstrated that anti-Semitism “is certainly not a problem that is endemic to being a Republican, it just doesn’t exist in our party.”
Rabbi Hyim Shafner, of the Bais Abraham Congregation in the Delmar Loop, on the western edge of St. Louis, told the Riverfront Times that Greitens, like former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, was seen as an American, rather than as a Jewish candidate. “Obviously, it’s a positive thing in terms of how people see Jews and how they see Israel,” Shafner said.
Greitens married Sheena Elise Chestnut in Spokane, Washington. The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Onstot, a Presbyterian minister, officiated. They live in St. Louis, Missouri, with their two sons.