ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Divine victory

Argentina’s president-elect visits Lubavitcher rebbe’s grave

Javier Milei, a Catholic who wants to convert to Judaism after his term in office, thanks late Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi Schneerson for election win

Argentina's president-elect, Javier Milei, second right, visits the Montefiore Cemetery after praying next to Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis at the resting place of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in New York, November 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Argentina's president-elect, Javier Milei, second right, visits the Montefiore Cemetery after praying next to Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis at the resting place of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in New York, November 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

JTA — For his first trip abroad since being elected president of Argentina last week, Javier Milei picked an auspicious destination: the tomb of the Lubavitcher rebbe in Queens, New York.

The site is a frequent pilgrimage location for Jews and others who believe there is special spiritual significance to prayers made at the burial place of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Milei is Catholic, but his admiration for and engagement with Judaism runs deep. He studies with a rabbi in Buenos Aires, has quoted Torah passages in rallies, and walked out on stage for a campaign event to a recording of a shofar. He has said he wishes to convert to Judaism but does not see Shabbat observance as compatible with running his country.

He last visited the rabbi’s grave, known as the Ohel, in July during his campaign.

“I am going to be thankful because when I last visited this place, I asked for courage, wisdom, and temperance: wisdom to separate good from bad, courage to choose good, temperance to maintain myself in the position I have,” Milei told the TV news channel LaNacion on Sunday night.

“Also to accept the will of the Creator,” he added. “The Creator put me in a place of maximum responsibility so I am going to thank and try to be up to the task.”

The trip to the grave was Milei’s second Jewish event since the far-right “anarcho-capitalist” was elected in a runoff on November 19.

On Saturday night, he participated in a havdalah ceremony to mark the end of Shabbat in Once, a Jewish neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where he received blessings from the Kabbalistic rabbi David Hanania Pinto.

For his trip to New York, Milei traveled with a few members of his future cabinet, as well as Marc Stanley, the US ambassador to Argentina, and Gerardo Werthein, an Argentinean Jewish businessman who is rumored to be in the running to become Argentina’s ambassador in Washington, DC.

Illustrative: The late Chabad-Lubavitch leader Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. (Courtesy)

Another Argentinean Jewish businessman accompanied him to the rabbi’s grave. Eduardo Elsztain is chairman and chief executive of IRSA, Argentina’s largest real estate company, which manages the largest shopping malls in Buenos Aires. Elsztain, a protege of the Jewish philanthropist billionaire George Soros, has also supported Chabad social programs and Jewish youth-related projects in Argentina.

Milei is scheduled to be inaugurated on December 10. He has said he wants his first international trip as president to be to Israel, where he has vowed to move Argentina’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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