France's Chief Rabbi Resigns, Admits to Deception, Local Media Reports

Rabbi Gilles Bernheim's resignation follows initial refusal to step down, despite admitting to several counts of plagiarism and deception regarding his academic credentials.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, handed in his resignation on Thursday after admitting to plagiarism in two books and to deception about his academic credentials.

The Paris Central Consistory, the top Jewish religious organization in France, said in a statement that Bernheim was resigning and gave no further details. Bernheim asked for the leave at an emergency Central Consistory meeting, after having acknowledged on Tuesday that he made "mistakes," in an interview with Radio Shalom.

Bernheim, 60, a Modern Orthodox Jew, was respected by other religious leaders as an active participant in interfaith dialogue, and his booklet opposing the government's plan to legalize same-sex marriage won praise from former Pope Benedict.

His fall from grace shocked France's 600,000-strong Jewish community and it was not immediately clear who would take his place. Bernheim was elected to the seven-year post in 2008.

Last month, a blogger accused him of copying a 1996 text by the late French post-modernist philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard to use in his 2011 book "Forty Jewish Meditations." Bernheim initially refused to resign, despite having admitted to several counts of plagiarism and deception regarding his academic credentials.

After denying the report, Bernheim later admitted that Lyotard had written the disputed passage.

Another blogger accused Bernheim last week of plagiarism in a 2002 book and L'Express magazine revealed he had not earned the prestigious title of philosophy professor that was often attached to his name.

Although his official biography did not mention him passing the "agregation," the highly selective examination needed to qualify as a professor, Bernheim never disputed the title when it appeared in newspaper articles and publicity for his books.

France's chief rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, center, and French interior minister, Claude Gueant, right, arrive at a Jewish school in Toulouse, March 19, 2012.Credit: AP

Click the alert icon to follow topics: