BUENOS AIRES — Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a lawmaker in Argentina’s National Parliament, will miss the opening of the 2014 legislative session and the State of the Union Speech because it occurs on Shabbat.
The opening session is scheduled to take place this year on Saturday, March 1. The newly elected parliament will be seated for the first time, during which the president of the country will visit the parliament in order to deliver the State of the Union speech.
Bergman told JTA that he has the support of his center-right PRO party, for whom he will be representing the people of Buenos Aires City, to miss his first parliamentary session. He also requested and received permission from the president of the Parliament Chamber to miss the session, noting that there is “a Constitutional guarantee of freedom of worship.”
Shabbat “is a day of introspection and in the case of a rabbi is the day that is dedicated exclusively to spiritual issues in the community,” Begman said in an email Thursday from Rome minutes before a scheduled meeting with Pope Francis as part of an Argentine interfaith mission. “My fellow party members respect me on this point; it is part of the diversity and plurality of our party. ”
The parliamentary rabbi, whose PRO Party won 34.5 percent of the vote in elections in late October, is believed to be the only rabbi elected to a national parliament outside of Israel.
Bergman, 51, is the author of five books and is recognized internationally. He founded a network of Jewish schools and educational projects that includes a gay alliance and a rural farm. The senior rabbi of the traditional Congregacion Israelita Argentina, he is the founder of Active Memory, a group that demonstrated every Monday for a decade seeking justice for the victims of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
He will officially begin representing Buenos Aires City in the Lower House of the National Congress on March 3.