French chief rabbi suspected of faking university degree

French chief rabbi suspected of faking university degree

Gilles Bernheim, already mired in plagiarism scandal, now faces accusation of falsely claiming academic achievement

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) — French Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim is facing new charges that he faked an academic title.

In most of his official biographies, Bernheim is said to hold a degree in philosophy. When former French President Nicolas Sarkozy awarded him the Legion of Honor in 2010, he said twice that Bernheim is an “agrégé de philosophie,” a very competitive academic distinction in France.

Bernheim never contradicted these assertions. However, the rabbi’s name does not appear in the official lists of successful candidates to the “agrégation” exam between 1968 and 1986, L’Express reported. Bernheim’s academic title also is not mentioned in the files of the Ministry of National Education.

Bernheim is still reeling from the charge that he plagiarized several passages from in his latest book, “Forty Jewish Meditations,” published in 2011. Several French blogs revealed that multiple passages from Bernheim’s work were copied from other authors, such as Jean-François Lyotard, Elie Wiesel and Jean-Marie Domenach.

After an initial denial, Bernheim said last week that he had been “fooled” by a ghostwriter. He also claimed that it was “the one and only time he used such an arrangement.”

Meanwhile, Jean-Noel Darde, a senior lecturer at Paris 8 University, wrote on his website that he found at least one other instance of apparent plagiarism in “Caring for Others: At the foundation of Jewish law,” a book Bernheim published in 2002. Darde claims the rabbi copied excerpts from a book by Jean-Loup Charvet, “The Eloquence of Tears,” published in 2000.

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