Rick Santorum's Jewish student days

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

A devout Catholic running for the Republican nomination might be an unlikely candidate for membership of a Jewish club.

But Rick Santorum, the latest presidential hopeful to surge in the polls, was apparently once part of a Jewish fraternity.

According to its website, as noticed by Tablet magazine, he was part of the Penn State university chapter of the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity.

The fraternity was set up at Colombia University more than a century ago because Jewish students were barred from mainstream fraternities.

Founded by ten Jewish friends, it boasts several famous Jewish alumni including TV presenters Larry King and Jerry Springer, but since the 1950s has also had many non-Jewish members.

Mr Santorum, whose parents fled Mussolini's Italy, is known for his strident views on abortion and homosexuality. His staunch social conservatism won him second place in the Iowa caucus this week, but it remains to be seen whether his views will be as popular in other, more liberal states.

Like the majority of the Republican hopefuls, Mr Santorum has been outspoken in his support for Israel, to the extent that he has claimed there are no Palestinians in the West Bank.

Last updated: 11:06am, January 6 2012