France's chief rabbi resigns admitting plagiarism

France's Chief Rabbi, the country's leading Jewish religious figure, on Thursday resigned with immediate effect, after admitting to plagiarism in his books.


Last week Gilles Bernheim acknowledged the unattributed copying. He later admitted that an entry on his CV, suggesting he had been awarded a prestigious academic title for philosophy, was not true.

Dozens of members of Central Consistory, (the official body representing Judaism in France) met in Paris on Thursday, to discuss the issue in an emergency session, which Bernheim also attended.

"He recognised his faults, apologised and gave explanations," Sammy Ghozlan, vice-president of the Consistory, said, adding that Bernheim had decided to give up his duties as Grand Rabbi.

The 60-year-old Bernheim had initially ruled out stepping down, but came under increasing pressure as the scandal grew, and his spokesman resigned on Wednesday without giving a reason.

Bernheim's post is to be taken over in the interim by someone to be chosen soon by the Consistory president.

Bernheim, who was elected France's Grand Rabbi in 2008 for a seven-year term, was found to have plagiarised from several authors, including the late French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard.

Nicknamed the "philosophical rabbi", Bernheim was considered relatively open, particularly towards other religions, earning him another nickname "rabbi of the Catholics."

Pope Benedict XVI even quoted from one of his essays as part of an argument against gay marriage last December.

Bernheim was awarded France's Legion of Honour, the country's highest decoration, in 2010 by then-president Nicolas Sarkozy.



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