In this Dec. 12, 2012, picture provided by the NCI-Emanue El, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), lights the menorah during Hanukkah celebrations in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At left is Rabbi Sergio Bergman, and at right is Rabbi Alejandro Avruj. (NCI-Emanu El/AP)

Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a newly elected lawmaker in Argentina’s parliament, has announced that he will be skipping tomorrow’s mandatory opening session because it takes place on Shabbat.

Despite the significance of the event (President Kirchner will be delivering her State of the Union address), Bergman never wavered in his decision to observe the Sabbath. In an email to sent JTA minutes before meeting with Pope Francis as part of an Argentine interfaith mission, he explained: “[Shabbat] is a day of introspection and in the case of a rabbi is the day that is dedicated exclusively to spiritual issues in the community. My fellow party members respect me on this point; it is part of the diversity and plurality of our party.”

And he need not be concerned that his decision will be received negatively—the president of the parliament chamber granted him permission to skip the session.

Bergman is the founder of the Judaica Foundation, a network of communal organizations that includes synagogues, educational institutions, a gay alliance, and rural farms. On his website, he states that his political career was sparked by the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires: “In pursuit of justice, Bergman decided to trade in some of his time in synagogue for time on the streets, organizing weekly demonstrations in front of the Supreme Court, as part of a movement called Memoria Activa (active memory)—to remember what happened.”