Two days after rejecting calls to do so, French Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim announced that he was stepping down from his post amid two scandals, a French daily reported on Thursday.
Bernheim, 60, announced his decision during an emergency meeting with the Consistoire, the Jewish religious services body that employs Bernheim.
Amid revelations that he committed plagiarism and used unearned academic titles, Bernheim had acknowledged Tuesday making “serious mistakes.”
Pending new elections, Paris Chief Rabbi Michel Guggenheim and rabbinic educator Olivier Kaufmann will jointly hold the chief rabbi post for an interim period, Le Figaro said.
“Resigning now would be an act of pride,” Bernheim had said Tuesday in an interview with the Paris-based Radio Shalom. “I must remain as a show of humility.”
Bernheim admitted Tuesday he did not obtain the agregation — a title obtained by civil servants in competitive tests — in philosophy. He said he had suffered an injury just before he was supposed to take the exam. Several of his biographies said he passed the agregation.
He also admitted “serious mistakes but ones that do not directly concern the tasks I was entrusted with as chief rabbi.”
Le Figaro on Tuesday reported that “there was heavy pressure” on the part of unnamed officials from the Jewish community for Bernheim to resign.
Bernard Guigui, vice president of the Marseille branch of the Consistoire, which is responsible for religious Jewish services, told JTA Tuesday morning that while “we do not demand Bernheim resign, everybody is talking about it. 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.”
Bernheim said last week that his 2011 book “40 Jewish Meditations” contained one passage that his ghostwriter plagiarized without Bernheim’s knowledge.
Since then, he has since been accused of at least three additional cases of plagiarism in the same book and in two earlier publications.
Jean-Noel Darde, a senior lecturer at Paris 8 University, wrote on his blog Monday that Bernheim plagiarized another text in his essay against gay marriage titled “Homosexual Marriage, Gay Parenting and Adoption: What We Forgot to Say.” Pope Benedict quoted from the essay during a speech at the Vatican in December.
Bernheim began his tenure as chief rabbi on January 1, 2009 for what was to have been a seven year term, after previously serving as the rabbi of Paris’s main synagogue. He was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 2010.