Argentina’s Javier Milei tells Miami shul he has Jewish heritage

Pro-Israel politician reveals his grandfather learned shortly before dying that his mother was a Jew, in latest Jewish-related development for the philosemitic Argentine president

Argentinian President Javier Milei at the Shul of Bal Harbor in Surfside, Florida, on April 10, 2024, (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Argentinian President Javier Milei at the Shul of Bal Harbor in Surfside, Florida, on April 10, 2024, (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

JTA — Javier Milei’s fondness for Judaism has been a defining element of his public persona. Now, Argentina’s Catholic president says he has Jewish heritage of his own.

Milei made the revelation while speaking Wednesday night at the Shul of Bal Harbor, a large Chabad synagogue in the Miami area that was honoring the right-wing politician as an “International Ambassador of Light” in part because of his support for Israel, which makes him stand out among Latin American leaders and is a departure from his predecessor’s stance.

“My grandfather was truly a great influence. … I used to learn values from him and learned a lot,” Milei said, speaking in Spanish with a simultaneous translation. “The most interesting thing is that, shortly before he passed away he discovered that he was Jewish. He didn’t know but someone told him, ‘Your mother was Jewish, so you are Jewish.’”

He continued, “So all the values that I received from him came from Judaism.”

The revelation was the latest Jewish development for Milei, extending a record that has included visiting the grave of the last Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi in New York; traveling to Israel and praying at the Western Wall; and appointing his own rabbi to be Argentina’s ambassador to Israel. Milei has said that he wants to convert to Judaism but sees the duties of the presidency as incompatible with Jewish observance.

The Shul of Bal Harbour’s sold-out annual dinner honored Milei alongside his sister and advisor Karina Milei for “their unwavering dedication to spreading freedom, hope and positivity in the face of darkness,” according to the invitation distributed by the synagogue. It added, “Their tireless efforts for Israel and the global community have been a shining beacon, inspiring a brighter, more compassionate world.”

Louis Har, an Argentine Israeli who was freed from captivity in Gaza in December, presented Milei with a yellow ribbon in support of the remaining hostages, according to pictures shared on social media from the event. And Milei posted a picture of the award he was given, a colorful plaque in the shape of the Torah and inscribed with a verse from the book of Isaiah in Hebrew and Spanish, on Instagram Thursday. The verse includes a variation on the phrase “light unto the nations” — a traditional Jewish imperative to act as a moral exemplar.

Rabbi Tzvi Grunblatt, who has headed Chabad in Argentina since 1978, traveled with Milei and his entourage on a commercial flight to Miami, in keeping with the president’s austerity spending.

“I’m proud as an Argentinean about this recognition to our president and the secretary general of the presidency, for his faith, his spiritual values, for his belief in the spiritual mission of life,” Grunblatt told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “There are a lot of people with that attitude but he not only is a man of faith but also speaks publicly about this.”

Activist Bob Kunst (C), 81, of Miami Beach, awaits the arrival of the Argentine president outside The Shul Chabad Lubavitch synagogue in Surfside, Florida, on April 10, 2024. (Photo by Zak Bennett/ AFP)

The visit came at the start of a US trip that is also set to include a meeting with Elon Musk in Texas and with Ilan Goldfajn, head of the Inter American Development Bank, who is a Brazilian Jew. According to a social media post by one of Milei’s advisors, the right-wing leader also sat down with Ben Shapiro, the Jewish right-wing pundit with a huge online following, in Florida on Wednesday.

Most Popular
read more: