Bronfman award recognizes ‘young Jewish heroes’

Eric Greitens

By Repps Hudson, Special to the Jewish Light

Eric Greitens, founder of The Mission Continues, a non-profit that helps post-9/11 veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan return to civilian life and be productive, is the eighth recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize — a national humanitarian honor that comes with a $100,000 award. 

Greitens, a St. Louisan will receive the honor in the fall in a ceremony in New York. The monetary award comes with no strings attached.

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“We are trying to identify young Jewish heroes,” said Stephen Bronfman, a Montreal businessman and chairman of Claridge SRB Investments, Inc., in a telephone interview. “With Eric, we believe that young Jewish kids can look up to him and say to themselves, ‘I can do anything.’

Bronfman founded the Charles Bronfman Prize in 2004 with his sister, Ellen Bronfman Hauptman, and their spouses, Claudine Blondin Bronfman and Andrew Hauptman, “to honor their father, his values and his commitment to young people,” a press release said. Stephen Bronfman said the prize was established in honor of his father’s 70th  birthday.

Greitens, 38, is a former Navy SEAL who has done humanitarian volunteer work in Rwanda and Bosnia. He founded The Mission Continues in 2007. 

Greitens was nominated by Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL and investigative correspondent and producer of special investigations and documentaries at CNN, according to Jill Collier Indyk, executive director of the Charles Bronfman Prize. Greitens had letters of reference from Tom Brokaw of NBC News, former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, who is also former CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and Mary McMurtrey, president of Gateway Center for Giving.

Each year, about 50 people are nominated for the prize, Bronfman said. He is a member of the committee that makes the choice of the winner after candidates have been screened.

A press release states: “The nomination criteria for the Charles Bronfman Prize are deeply inspired by the legacy of our father, who believes passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately the world. His humanitarian instincts are expressed through a Jewish universalism we are proud to share.

“We seek to identify a diverse and global pool of nominees,” the press release continues. “representing the range of humanitarian effort. We rely on committed nominating teams to tell us amazing stories of candidates who have significantly contributed to the betterment of the world. Inspired by Jewish values, they are transformative examples of change.”

Previous recipients are Jay Feinberg, founder and executive director of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation; Dr. Alon Tal, founder of Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies; Dr. Amitai Ziv, founder and director of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation; Rachel Andres, founder and director of Jewish World Watch’s Solar Cooker Project; Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, co-founders of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP); Sasha Chanoff, founder and executive director, RefugePoint; Jared Genser, founder and president of Freedom Now, and Karen Tal, former principal of The Bialik-Rogozin School and co-founder of Education Insights.