Argentinean rabbi tapped as government minister

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) – Argentinean lawmaker Rabbi Sergio Bergman was tapped to serve as minister of environment and sustainable development.

Bergman, who will start his new position on Dec. 10 when the new government is sworn in, is believed to be the only rabbi serving as a government minister outside of Israel.

Bergman will be part of Mauricio Macri’s new centre-right government. He was named by Macri in 2011 to head his party’s slate of parliamentary candidates for the Buenos Aires Municipal Legislature. In 2013, he headed the list of national parliamentary candidates. Bergman won both elections.

Bergman is the rabbi of the oldest synagogue in Argentina. He is a friend of Pope Francis, who served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires prior to his election as pope. The rabbi wrote a book of religious essays, titled “A Gospel According to Pope Francis,” which praises the pope as a religious leader.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Macri on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election, the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “Macri told me that relations between Argentina and Israel will now change for the better,” Netanyahu wrote in a post on Facebook.

The new Argentinean government has said it will cancel the pact that Argentina signed with Iran to jointly investigate the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, a measure welcomed by American Jewish Committee, the Latin American Jewish Congress, the Argentinean Jewish political umbrella DAIA and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The agreement has been criticized by Israel and Argentina’s Jews, among others. Iran has been accused of responsibility for the 1994 AMIA bombing, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

“We will propose to the Congress to cancel the pact with Iran as we promised in the campaign,” Macri said Monday morning in his first news conference after being elected in a runoff vote the previous day.

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