Argentina: Rabbi wins seat in Buenos Aires' parliament

As top candidate on center-right party's slate, Rabbi Sergio Bergman obtains almost half of the votes, in a more than 10-candidate election.

July 11, 2011 14:43
3 minute read.
Argentinian Rabbi Sergio Bergman

Rabbi Sergio Bergman 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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BUENOS AIRES -- Argentinean Rabbi Sergio Bergman won a seat on the Buenos Aires municipal legislature on Monday, leading the vote tally with 45 percent of the votes.

Bergman garnered triple the number of votes of the candidate who came in second place, Juan Cabandié of the Victory Front Party,  who won 14 percent of the vote.

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Senior rabbi of the traditional Congregacion Israelita Argentina, Bergman is the founder of Active Memory, a group that demonstrated every Monday for a decade in front of Argentina’s Supreme Court seeking justice for the victims of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.

Bergman was tapped by the city’s incumbent mayor, Mauricio Macri, to lead his PRO Party’s list for the municipal legislature. As the top candidate on the center-right party's slate, the rabbi obtained almost half of the votes, in a more than 10-candidate election of Buenos Aires Argentina´s capital, with a population of about 13 million and a budget of $5.9 billion.

Bergman told JTA that he got involved in politics because Argentine society is “in a deep crisis of values,” adding that “I believe that Torah can also be taught in the legislature.”

He dismissed the notion that his candidacy could put the Jewish community at risk. “If the society knows us better, the level of anti-Semitism will become lower,” Bergman said. “I have many non-Jewish voters. The only doubt today is if Jews will vote for me."

"What I can assure is that I can be criticized for many things, but not for being a rabbi. I receive criticisms that I’m on the right or that I ask for law and order, but nobody criticizes me for being Jewish. If I receive attacks for being a rabbi, the first to come out to defend me are the non-Jews,” he said

Already one of Buenos Aires’ most prominent spiritual leaders, a Buenos Aires court ruled on June 16 that Bergman could not use the title “rabbi” on the election ballot.

Macri garnered 47 percent of the vote for mayor, but since a threshold of 50 percent is required will face a runoff election on July 31 with Jewish mayoral candidate Daniel Filmus, a former Argentine education minister, chosen by Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to run as the candidate of her center-left Victory Front Party. Filmus garnered 27.8 percent of the vote.

Another Jewish mayoral candidate was the Progressive Front Party's Jorge Telerman, who had been the city’s vice mayor before taking over as mayor for nearly two years following the 2006 impeachment and removal from office of Anibal Ibarra, as well as his Jewish vice mayoral running mate Diego Kravetz. 

Amid the proliferation of prominent Jewish candidates, Buenos Aires voters also had opportunity to cast their mayoral ballots for a neo-Nazi: Alejandro Biondini of the Social Alternative Party. He has openly espoused anti-Semitism and his previous party, New Triumph, was banned by Argentina’s Supreme Court in 2009. Biondini obtained 0.19 percent of the votes.

Estimates of Argentina’s Jewish population range from 180,000 to 280,000. It is Latin America’s largest Jewish community, but it has suffered the sting of anti-Semitism during its history.

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