Javier Milei speaks during his campaign's closing rally in Cordoba, Argentina, Nov. 16, 2023. (Tomas Cuesta/Getty Images)

Javier Milei, right-wing economist with a passion for Judaism, is elected president of Argentina

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Javier Milei, right-wing economist with a passion for Judaism, is elected president of Argentina

Javier Milei speaks during his campaign's closing rally in Cordoba, Argentina, Nov. 16, 2023. (Tomas Cuesta/Getty Images)

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Javier Milei, a colorful right-wing “anarcho-capitalist” who has said he would like to convert to Judaism, was elected president of Argentina on Sunday.

Early results showed he garnered over 55% of the national vote, defeating Sergio Massa, the current left-wing government’s economy minister.

Milei’s passionate love of Judaism and Israel has been one of the several unexpected qualities that Argentines and political analysts have become accustomed to during his rapid rise over the past year. Milei, 53, throughout his campaign blamed the outgoing government for soaring inflation and poverty rates. That government included Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — who has been accused of obstructing the investigation into the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing — as vice president.

“Today we will start the rebuilding of Argentina,” Milei said in his acceptance speech Sunday night.

Milei, an economist and former TV and radio pundit, has promised to close several government ministries, including Argentina’s national bank, a move that would make the country’s currency the American dollar. He calls climate change a hoax and has earned comparisons to Donald Trump.

He also studies Torah regularly.

In an interview with Spain’s El Pais newspaper over the summer, Milei talked about his study with Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish, who heads ACILBA, an Argentine-Moroccan Jewish community based in Buenos Aires. Milei said he has considered converting to Judaism but worries about how Shabbat observance would clash with the duties of the presidency.

He demonstrates his passion for Judaism at rallies and public events, often walking out on stage to the sound of a shofar, the ram’s horn blown on Rosh Hashanah. At one rally in August, the shofar sound was accompanied on a screen by a photo of a man wearing a Jewish prayer shawl.

He is also an outspoken supporter of Israel, having stated before the start of Israel’s war on Oct. 7 that he would like to make an early diplomatic trip to Jerusalem and to move Argentina’s embassy to that city. In one of his final public appearances before the election, Milei was seen waving an Israeli flag among a large crowd in Rosario.

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