Judge halts elections at Buenos Aires Jewish center amid irregularities complaint

Marcy Oster

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — An Argentine judge halted elections at the Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center on Sunday amid an investigation into irregularities in its electoral process for leadership.

The ruling AMIA party, the Orthodox Religious United Front, was accused by the non-Orthodox parties Plural Jai and Together for AMIA of irregularities in the process of making the lists of AMIA members allowed to vote.

No new date was set by the Buenos Aires Municipal Court judge, Maria Isabel Di Filippo, after ordering the suspension on Friday. The cancellation came after opposition groups said that special member discounts to haredi Orthodox families unfairly increased the number of Orthodox voters that would vote for the Religious United Front.

AMIA leaders said they will appeal the suspension — the first in the 122-year history of AMIA elections — on Monday. The leaders said that since the ruling was issued just hours before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, and since Sunday is not a work day in Argentina, they could not do anything about the halt to the elections in time to have them as scheduled.

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The Religious United Front includes some nonreligious parties such as Avoda and Likud; no other list reportedly was presented to compete in the elections.

The religious and nonreligious parties have differing views on core issues such as conversion, mixed marriage, same-sex weddings and the type of Jewish education that AMIA supports.

In a statement posted on its website, AMIA rejected the complaint “lodged by only six members” for being false and defamatory, and said it regrets that the parties  “with an unprecedented and alarming virulence” are “trying to damage the prestigious institution.”

The Religious United Front said it has conducted the elections in a “transparent and democratic manner” and strictly complied with the rules and bylaws of the institution.

The Orthodox group won AMIA elections for the first time in 2008. Since then, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox parties have tried to add more voters. In April 2011, a record 10,757 Buenos Aires AMIA members voted to choose a new administration, more than doubling the number of voters from ’08, and the Religious United Front won with 41 percent of the votes. The current voter rolls have approximately doubled since 2011.

Buenos Aires Jewish leaders have been chosen by democratic vote even when Argentina was not a democracy and was ruled by military dictatorships.

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