The Rabbi Who Lied: Head of France’s Jewish Community Quits Over Plagiarism Scandal

 @Gooch700
on April 11 2013 10:51 AM

Accusations of plagiarism have claimed the career and reputation of yet another senior European official, this time a religious figure.

Gilles Bernheim, France’s grand rabbi, has resigned after admitting he lied about his academic status on his curriculum vitae and plagiarized the works of several other authors for his 2011 book "Quarante Méditations Juives," ("Forty Jewish Meditations"), according to reports in Le Figaro newspaper.

The rabbi had earlier denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign.

Bernheim’s CV included a claim that he had received a prestigious, and rarely granted, academic title from Paris’ famed Sorbonne University – an apparent lie. He had previously been introduced by the title “agrégé,” a kind of Ph.D. granted to a handful of civil servants who pass competitive tests.

Bernheim now has confessed he never even took the test.

In addition, he reportedly plagiarized sections of an essay called “Homosexual Marriage, Gay Parenting and Adoption: What We Forgot to Say” that he composed which argued against same-sex marriage – a text that Pope Benedict XVI had cited during a speech given last year.

The Consistoire Central des Juifs de France (Central Consistory of Jews of France), the organization that governs the country’s Jewish congregations, is now holding an emergency meeting in Paris to find a successor to Bernheim.

"He recognized his faults, apologized and gave explanations," Sammy Ghoslan, the Consistory's vice-president, told Agence France-Presse, adding that the rabbi’s resignation is "a solution that brings more serenity. We all agreed.”

But Bernheim was not completely contrite in his resignation. While conceding he committed some “serious ethical mistakes,” he insisted that they did not “directly concern the tasks I was entrusted with as chief rabbi.”

French media reported that Bernheim was under heavy pressure from his colleagues in the Jewish community to resign over the allegations.

Bernard Guigui, vice president of the Marseille branch of the Consistoire, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “I think when you have such a huge responsibility and commit such an error, it’s better not to embarrass and hurt the Jewish community but step back and resign.”

France24 reported that Bernheim was elected chief rabbi in 2008 in a divisive battle against his predecessor, Joseph Sitruk.

In 2009, Bernheim was appointed a chevalier (knight) in the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honor).

A number of other prominent Europeans have lost their jobs over plagiarism charges. In February of this year, German Education Minister Annette Schavan quit her post after the Heinrich Heine University revoked her degree, citing that much of her dissertation had been plagiarized.

Last year, the president of Hungary, Pal Schmitt, resigned following a similar academic snafu.

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