French chief rabbi resigns in wake of plagiarism scandal

Gilles Bernheim, the chief rabbi of France, leaving the Elysee Palace in Paris after meeting with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, March 21, 2012.  (Franck Prevel/Getty)

Gilles Bernheim, the chief rabbi of France, leaving the Elysee Palace in Paris after meeting with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, March 21, 2012. (Franck Prevel/Getty)

PARIS (JTA) – France’s chief rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, beset by a plagiarism scandal, has resigned.

Bernheim, 60, announced his decision Thursday during an emergency meeting with the Consistoire, the Jewish religious services body that employs him.

Until a new election is organized, the chief rabbi of Paris, Michel Guggenheim, and the director of France’s rabbinical school, Olivier Kaufmann, will fill the vacancy.

Bernheim, who has served as chief rabbi of France since 2008, over the past few weeks has been plagued by a scandal in which it was revealed that he committed several instances of plagiarism in two of his books and in an essay against gay marriage published last year.

Bernheim also was accused of not correcting his official biographies, which say he holds a degree in philosophy he never actually earned.

After initially denying one accusation, Bernheim acknowledged his "serious mistakes" on Tuesday evening in an interview with the Paris-based Radio Shalom.

Bernheim had said he would not resign, arguing that a resignation would be a “desertion” and an “act of pride."
 

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