Jewish body holds crisis talks over Grand Rabbi

The body governing France's Jewish congregations will meet on Thursday for an emergency session over a plagiarism scandal involving the country's Grand Rabbi that has made waves at home and abroad.

Jewish body holds crisis talks over Grand Rabbi
Gilles Bernheim receiving the prestigious Legion d'Honneur from French president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009. Photo: Alain Azria

Gilles Bernheim — France's highest Jewish religious authority — last week admitted to plagiarism in his 2011 book "Forty Jewish Meditations" following revelations in French news magazine L'Express.

Further investigation by AFP revealed that a claim made on his CV that he was awarded a prestigious but extremely difficult-to-obtain philosophy academic status from Sorbonne University was not true.

Some 25 members of the Central Israeli Consistory of France will meet in Paris from midday to discuss the issue, according to Elie Korchia, vice-president of the body's Paris subsidiary.

The central consistory has the power to relieve a grand rabbi of his duties, but has never before implemented such a move.

The scandal broke early in the week, when the French news magazine L'Express revealed Bernheim's 2011 book, "Forty Jewish Meditations", contained purloined writings.

After initially denying the accusation, Bernheim, 61, issued a statement on Wednesday from Jerusalem admitting the plagiarism, but blaming it on an unidentified "student" he said had assisted him with research and writing.

"That was a horrible error…. I was fooled. Nevertheless, I am responsible," he said.

Further investigation by AFP showed Bernheim noted on his CV a high academic status that he may not actually hold.

His Who's Who entry, based on information he provided, says he was awarded from Sorbonne University an "agregation de philosophie", a prestigious but extremely difficult to obtain achievement that permits the teaching of philosophy in French institutions.

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