Rabbi wins congress seat in Argentinian election

By Jonathan Gilbert, October 31, 2013

A rabbi in Argentina has won a seat in the country’s national parliament after storming to victory in legislative elections.

Sergio Bergman is the first rabbi in the history of the Southern Cone nation to be elected to Congress. He will represent voters in the lower house.

Rabbi Bergman, 51, is a prominent reform rabbi who dons a large, multi-coloured kippah in political appearances.

He led the list of candidates for the centre-right PRO party. It won more than 34 per cent of the vote on Sunday, edging out the UNEN party, whose lead candidate was a popular and outspoken lawmaker.

Rabbi Bergman, who studied biochemistry, trounced the lead candidate of President Cristina Kirchner’s ruling alliance, Juan Cabandié, beating him by 13 percentage points. Mr Bergman is close to the PRO’s leader, Mauricio Macri, who launched his 2015 presidential bid in the aftermath of victories for the party in both congressional houses.

Rabbi Bergman has described Mr Macri as a “friend of Israel”.

He has also spoken out fiercely against the recent pact Mrs Kirchner’s government signed with Iran to probe a terrorist attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires nearly two decades ago.

Mrs Kirchner lost in key provinces on Sunday, a result that analysts say could be beginning of the end for her political model. “This marks a change,” Rabbi Bergman said during celebrations on Sunday night.

Rabbi Bergman is the founder of the Judaica Foundation, a network that includes shuls, educational institutions, social programmes, charitable funds, a gay alliance and rural farms.

Last updated: 6:45pm, October 31 2013