Argentina’s new President Javier Milei donned a yarmulka two days after his inauguration and helped light a giant menorah at a Chanuka celebration in the center of Buenos Aires alongside Rabbi Tzvi Grunblatt.
By Chabad.org Staff
Declaring that “the main lesson is that light prevails over darkness,” Argentina’s new President Javier Milei donned a kippah two days after his inauguration and helped light a giant menorah at a Chanukah celebration in the center of Buenos Aires.
Chabad-Lubavitch of Argentina’s annual Chanukah event, subtitled “Am Yisrael United in One Light,” took place on the sixth night of holiday and drew some 6,500 people to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay Plaza in Buenos Aires. The event was televised live by Televisión Pública Argentina in a 90-minute program hosted by journalist Cristina Perez and viewed by millions of people throughout Argentina.
All eyes of course were on Milei, who during his inaugural address days earlier likened his own surprise victory in Argentina’s presidential election to the miracle of Chanukah.
Standing alongside Rabbi Tzvi Grublatt, director of Chabad of Argentina, Milei declared that “victory in battle does not depend on the number of soldiers, but on the strength that comes from heaven. We know that the forces of heaven will support Argentina and, above all, will support Israel at this time.”
Chabad first erected a public menorah in Buenos Aires in 1984, just after the fall of the military junta that had ruled Argentina for seven years, and the menorah has been erected in the same plaza for the last 36 years. Milei’s lighting of the menorah marks the first time the president of Argentina has done so. The majority of Milei’s presidential cabinet likewise joined the event, as did the Mayor of Buenos Aires, Jorge Macri, and the American ambassador, Marc Stanley.
“This is a president who is not shy about recognizing that power stems from the Supreme Being, the Creator of the world,” Grunblatt explained. “It is good and healthy for society to understand that values must be built on the belief in the Creator.”
Speaking to the crowd and on television to the nation, Grunblatt explained that the Jewish people represent a chain of light reaching back to Abraham, the first Jew. “The menorah represents this fire, but you cannot have light in the abstract. You need candles to light the flame, that is the work. Values must always be accompanied by conduct—that is the concept of mitzvot.
“That is how you keep the flame alight.”
Chabad’s Chanukah event, which was also sponsored by Argentina’s umbrella Jewish organizations AMIA and DAIA, as well as Keren Kayemet for Israel, is considered the country’s central holiday event. It was dedicated this year in the merit of victory over terror and the safe return of Israeli hostages held by terror groups in Gaza, and was also attended by several Jewish former hostages released by Hamas during the recent ceasefire with Israel.
Argentina has the largest Jewish community in Latin America, numbering about 250,000 people, and thousands of well-wishers greeted the president. For most, it was the first opportunity to personally congratulate him on his surprise victory. “I am enthusiastic about the relationship he has with the Jewish community,” Federico Sasson, a 32-year-old businessman who attended the ceremony, told the Buenos Aires Times.
On the day of his inauguration, Milei gifted a menorah to Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish. The warm exchange between the two leaders outside Casa Rosada, the seat of the government’s executive branch, was captured on the live TV broadcast of the ceremony.
Milei, who was raised a Roman Catholic, has not been shy about the inspiration he has gained from the Rebbe and his teachings. On Nov. 27, Milei flew to New York to pray at the Ohel, the resting place of the Rebbe.
Milei has frequently expressed a deep love and admiration for Judaism and the Jewish people, and has spoken about his reverence for the Rebbe in interviews during the campaign. In one interview with Argentine TV last July, Milei noted that “I was recently in New York, and I even had the privilege of visiting the office of the Lubavitcher Rebbe,” and spoke about the Rebbe’s sichot (Torah discourses) and how he treasured a book of the Rebbe’s teachings.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has an expansive presence in Argentina, recently inaugurating a $25 million, 250,000-square-foot Jewish educational complex in the center of Buenos Aires, among other projects. Over the eight days of Chanukah Chabad distributed more than 20,000 menorahs in the country, and the central menorah lighting is one of dozens of public menorahs erected in Buenos Aires and throughout the country.
Grunblatt pointed out that the Rebbe, promoted the public celebration of Chanukah both to instill pride among Jews, but also to share the universal message of the holiday with people from all walks of life.
“Every good deed counts,” Grunblatt said of the lesson he hoped was the takeaway of the millions who witnessed the Chanukah event. “That every good deed helps to heal the darkness.”
(Reprinted with permission of Chabad.org)