How Strange His Path // Javier Milei, the new Argentine president-elect, considers himself a ben Noach and has plans to convert to Judaism after his term of office

Javier Milei was wearing a yarmulke and reciting Chapter 20 of Tehillim, surrounded by his rabbi, his sister and one other person when the call came: His opponent was on the line to concede the election. He was now the president-elect of Argentina. He recited a “Borei pri hagafen,” made a lechaim, and then went out to congratulate his supporters.
As he prepares to take the reins of South America’s second most powerful economy in less than two weeks, Milei, 53, has made his admiration for Yiddishkeit as much a part of his persona as his famed “chainsaw” vow to eliminate and privatize as much of the economy as he can. “My law,” he has declared repeatedly during the campaign, “is the Torah.”
There is hardly any precedent for a powerful leader of this caliber to be so warm to the Torah and the Jewish community. For example, he couched his recent visit to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Ohel in Queens and his promise to visit the Kosel as a way of thanking Hashem and to pray for the success of his term in office.
“Yerushalayim,” he has said, “is the city of G-d. I want to move our embassy there because it’s the city of G-d, of King David.” He is planning on making his first visit to Israel sometime within the next two weeks as the fulfillment of a two-year-old vow he made when he first met his rabbi, Rabbi Shimon Axel Wahnish, the leader of Buenos Aires’ large Moroccan community.
Despite being extremely strapped for time—at three weeks, Argentina has one of the shortest transition periods in the world for incoming administrations to get ready—he didn’t miss his regular parshah shiur with Rabbi Wahnish last Wednesday afternoon. Milei has described the 42-year-old Rabbi Wahnish as “my rabbi” numerous times, and he consults with him on everything. He has also made no secret of his disdain for the current leader of the Catholic Church, whom he blames for aggravating class warfare and embracing Western ideas on climate change and society that contradict traditional teachings.
This past Motzaei Shabbos, Milei was seen in the frum Buenos Aires Eleventh neighborhood, where he wore a large yarmulke and participated in the Havdalah ceremony of Rav Dovid Chananya Pinto, a renowned mekubal.
“I pray to G-d,” Rav Pinto was seen telling the president-elect following the ceremony, “that you will bring Argentina back to what it was before. I am sure that with the help of G-d and with the help of the people of Argentina, you will have success.”
Just four months ago, Milei made a formal request of Rabbi Wahnish to convert to Judaism. He had to be convinced out of it due to the rigors of the campaign trail and the pressures of the presidency if he were to win. As he later explained to a TV interviewer, how would he keep Shabbos, among other mitzvos?
Rabbi Wahnish isn’t affiliated with Chabad, but Milei made his own way to the their headquarters in Crown Heights. In one interview during the campaign, he is clearly emotional as he talks about “the Rebbe” and how he met with top Lubavitcher askanim.
“There’s a book that contains the teachings of the Rebbe,” Milei said. “Usually, they give you that book as a gift. How was this book written? The Rebbe would talk on Shabbos, but you cannot write on Shabbos. So how was it written? This is interesting. There are five rabbis who would learn by heart the Rebbe’s speech, and after Shabbos they would write it down. …I had the chance, the honor, to meet one of those rabbis who wrote those teachings, and I had the privilege that he gave me that book and signed it for me.”
Milei was referring to Rabbi Simon Jacobson, one of the Rebbe’s chozrim, or reviewers, as Rabbi Jacobson confirmed in a congratulatory video he posted after Milei won the election. “You should have seen how his eyes lit up. He was absolutely fascinated by the process of the remembering and that this was all documented in a book,” he said, describing the moment. “His excitement made me excited.”

To read more, subscribe to Ami