French chief rabbi admits his new book includes plagiarism
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French chief rabbi admits his new book includes plagiarism

Bernheim apologizes, blames ghostwriter, asks for book ‘Forty Jewish Meditations’ to be removed from stores

Chief rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim (photo credit: CC-BY-SA 2.0 Olevy/Wikimedia)
Chief rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim (photo credit: CC-BY-SA 2.0 Olevy/Wikimedia)

PARIS (JTA) – France’s Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim acknowledged that he plagiarized several parts of his latest book.

Bernheim said in a statement that parts of the 2011 book “Forty Jewish Meditations” were taken from other sources. Bernheim said he used a ghostwriter for the book.

“I have been fooled,” he wrote Tuesday. “However, I am responsible. I apologize to the authors whose texts have been copied, to the people who have read these ‘meditations’ and to my publisher who was not informed of the existence of an outsider.”

Bernheim asked for the book to be removed from bookstores and from his bibliography.

The affair started in early March when the Strass de la philosophie blog revealed that a passage on hasidic exegesis from Bernheim’s work was almost identical to an interview of the philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard that appears in the 1996 book “Questioning Judaism” by Elisabeth Weber.

Soon after the disclosure, Bernheim said some of the meditations in his book were transcripts of lessons he gave in the 1980s while he was a chaplain for French Jewish students. He said the lessons often were recorded and that copies of his personal notes were distributed to the listeners, implying that Lyotard, who died in 1998, plagiarized him and not the opposite.

His version was contradicted by Weber, who interviewed Lyotard and specified that the philosopher answered her questions without a single note. In addition, Jean-Noel Darde, a senior lecturer at Paris 8 University, suggested on his website that Bernheim also might have plagiarized books by other authors such as Elie Wiesel, Jean-Marie Domenach and Charles Dobzynski.

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