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What Javier Milei’s Passion for Judaism Means for Latin-American Jews

Over the past year, Argentina has fallen into an economic crisis, facing hyperinflation and growing poverty rates. Presidential candidate Javier Milei, a far-right anarcho-capitalist with no political experience, advertised himself as the solution to Argentina’s struggles. Milei won the run-off election in November and took office on Dec. 10. 

Milei has faced multiple controversies in the past, including allegations of misogynistic behavior, denial of climate change, and accusations of plagiarism. These incidents have given Milei a reputation for being somewhat of a wild card. Milei, who grew up Catholic, took a special interest in Judaism, and has reportedly been studying Torah for the last few years; he has even suggested the possibility of conversion.

Milei’s enthusiasm towards Judaism sets him apart from other right-wing politicians in South America. Although Milei may not be the best representative of Latin American Jews considering his problematic past, his willingness to embrace Judaism is refreshing, as he has expressed strong support for Israel in its war against Hamas. 

Senior Maia Donath, co-head of the Latin American Culture Club, spoke about her view on Milei’s conversion.

“While I don’t know if he is an exemplar of the ideal person or Jew, the more allies and the more Jews the better, especially in today’s political climate.” 

Donath recently visited Argentina and witnessed many elements of Judaism during her trip. 

“I saw Orthodox Jews proudly walking around, and I saw hostage posters in the airport and around the city. It made me feel safe and at home. We had Shabbat in my apartment and lit the candles very comfortably,” she said. 

Recently, Argentina hosted the 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games, celebrating young Jewish athletes from all over the world. For a week athletes battled it out, hoping to bring the gold to their home countries. Senior Hunter Bernhardt, a member of the U18 basketball team, was among these athletes. Along with a number of other young Jewish men from across the nation, Bernhardt helped bring victory to team U.S.A. 

Bernhardt described Argentina as an exceptionally welcoming environment for the Jewish community. 

“Everyone was very supportive of Jews and Israel,” he remarked. Coming from a foreign country, this feeling of warmth was very meaningful to him. Bernhardt also had the opportunity to hear from Milei himself and the American ambassador to Argentina, and both conveyed their unwavering support for Israel.

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