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France's Chief Rabbi Steps Down After Admitting Plagiary, False Philosophy Degree

AFP, LE MONDE(France)

Worldcrunch

PARIS - The Chief Rabbi of France was forced to step aside, after a scandal over alleged plagiarism and lying about his education background, reports Le Monde. Gilles Bernheim, 60, announced the decision on Thursday, following an emergency session of the Central Consistory, the main Jewish administering institution in France.

Bernheim, France's highest Jewish religious authority, had previously refused to resign, which he said as a “personal initiative would mean desertion.” Speaking on Tuesday evening on Radio Shalom, a Jewish radio station, he added that: “resigning would be an act of pride, whereas today I must behave humbly.”

After initial vehement denials, Bernheim admitted last week to having plagiarized, "borrowed" in his own words, several authors, for his book Forty Jewish Meditations, published in 2011. He has also acknowledged that he had lied about his agrégation in Philosophy -- a most prestigious but extremely difficult-to-obtain academic status -- from Paris' elite Sorbonne University, after revelations by the French news agency AFP.

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Until another chief rabbi is elected, the Grand Rabbi of Paris, Michel Guggenheim and the Director of the Rabbinical School, Olivier Kauffmann will stand in for Bernheim.

France, after the USA and Israel, is home to the third largest Jewish community in the world, with some 500,000 people.

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