Like many other world leaders, Milei, who was raised a Roman Catholic, has not been shy about the inspiration he has gained from the Rebbe and his teachings. Today’s visit to the Rebbe’s resting place in Cambria Heights, N.Y., is his first foreign trip since his surprise victory on Oct. 22.
The newly-elected president 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 Argentinian 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 Argentine joins a long list of world leaders who have sought the Rebbe’s blessings and guidance, both during his lifetime and in the 30 years since his passing. Among other heads of state to visit the Rebbe was Luis Alberto Lacalle, the former president of Uruguay, who visited the Rebbe in 1989, receiving a dollar and a blessing. “He had a way of looking at you very, very deeply,” he recalled “ … It was a very moving experience, a short one, but after that I have been much more attentive and aware of the message of the Rebbe … and the wider message of the Jewish religion.” His son, Luis Lacalle Pou, is the current president of Uruguay.
In 1966, Israel’s President Zalman Shazar famously broke protocol by directing his limo towards 770 Eastern Parkway, the Rebbe’s synagogue and headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., rather than request the Rebbe visit him, a head of state, at his Manhattan hotel. A decade later, just after his election as prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin visited the Rebbe in Brooklyn on his way to Washington, D.C., for his first-ever meeting with U.S. President Jimmy Carter. When the three-hour long private audience had ended, a member of the press asked what had been discussed. Begin responded, curtly: “Whatever I say to the Rabbi and he says to me is between us.”
The Rebbe received and corresponded with politicians and statesmen of all political streams and parties—from U.S. President Ronald Reagan to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and from King Hassan II of Morocco to Brazilian President Jose Sarney—both in public and private, always encouraging them to utilize their unique positions of influence for the betterment of all people.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has an expansive presence in Argentina, recently inaugurating a 250,000-square-foot Jewish educational complex in the center of Buenos Aires, among other projects.