French Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim quits in plagiarism case

April 11, 2013

(Chief Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim leaves after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris December 16, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau )

France’s Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, until recently the moral voice of the country’s Jewish community, stepped down on Thursday after admitting plagiarism in two books and deception about his academic credentials.

Bernheim, 60, submitted his resignation and apologies at an emergency leadership meeting of the Central Consistory, the top Jewish religious authority, after initially trying to hold on to his post despite acknowledging his faults.

In a statement, Bernheim said he quit because it was “no longer possible to fulfil (my) duties with the necessary serenity and tranquillity” and hoped the controversy would not overshadow his years of service to French Judaism.

Until the scandal broke last month, the modern Orthodox rabbi was better known as a leading religious commentator on public affairs, including increasing anti-Semitism in France, and an active participant in interfaith dialogue.

His recent booklet opposing a government plan to legalise same-sex marriage this year won unexpected praise last December from former Pope Benedict, who called it a “very detailed and profoundly moving study” defending traditional matrimony.

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