Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Rabbi takes leave amid scandal

Rabbi Gilles Bernheim said he regretted 'borrowing' from other people's work (AP)

France's top rabbi is taking leave from his post after he acknowledged "borrowing" other people's work and lying about his education, a top Jewish leader has said.

Rabbi Gilles Bernheim asked for leave at an urgent meeting in Paris of leaders of the Central Consistory of France, which accepted the request, said Richard Prasquier, the president of France's largest umbrella group of Jewish organisations.

Prasquier, speaking by mobile phone, said two other rabbis would temporarily fill the post of Grand Rabbi of France, which Rabbi Bernheim will leave for at least six months. Talks about whether he might return at all will take place in the coming months, he said.

He said many people in France's 500,000-strong Jewish community have been shaken over the case.

Rabbi Bernheim faced accusations by a French academic who tracks suspected plagiarism that parts of his 2011 book Forty Jewish Meditations and part of a text he wrote about gay marriage, same-sex parenting and adoption were lifted from others. That text, written autumn, was cited in the Christmas address of Pope Benedict XVI last year.

Asked about the claims on Tuesday, Rabbi Bernheim confirmed having carried out "borrowings ... what others might call plagiarism" from others. "Not only do I deeply regret it, but I recognise it as a moral flaw," he said of one instance.

Rabbi Bernheim had also come under scrutiny for claiming nearly four decades ago to have received an "aggregation" - or high-level certification - in philosophy. On Radio Shalom, he acknowledged he did not actually have one, but had made the claim 37 years ago during an unspecified "tragic event".

France is home to the largest Jewish community in western Europe. The Consistory brings together nearly 500 synagogues and oratories in France and its overseas territories. Rabbi Bernheim has been in the post since 2009. It normally has a seven-year term.

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