Posted on April 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm
By Carolyn Yeager
He is a 60 year-old “trained philosopher” who was elected in 2008 as the religious leader of the third-largest Jewish community in the world, numbering approximately 600,000. (Note the two symbolic sixes in the foregoing.) At issue were several parts of his book Forty Jewish Meditations that were found to be taken from other sources.
Right: The Great Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim attends the UMP party‘s debate on secularism in Paris, France, April 5, 2011. No, he’s not blind, maybe just exhibiting his affinity for denial.
The plagiarizing is one thing; the trail of lies this flawed man came up with to deny it is the real scandal. Just last December, Pope Benedict XVI quoted from a recent essay by Bernheim on same-sex marriage; now there are charges that parts of that essay, too, were similar to the work of others. On Monday, a French Web site, Archeology of Cut and Paste, accused the rabbi of using passages in his essay that were close to those in a book by a priest, the Rev. Joseph-Marie Verlinde. No wonder the Pope liked it!
The exposure of the plagiarism started in March (last month) when a website named Strass de la philosophie discovered similarities between Bernheim’s work and an interview of the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard in the 1996 book Questioning Judaism by Elizabeth Weber.
A few days later, in a childish, yet cynical attempt to cover for himself, Bernheim answered by saying that some of the meditations in the books were transcripts of lessons he gave in the 1980s, as a chaplain for Jewish students, and that these lessons were often recorded while copies of his personal notes were handed to pupils – thus implying that Lyotard, who died in 1998, plagiarized him, and not the opposite.
But Elizabeth Weber subsequently refuted Bernheim’s version, saying that Lyotard had answered her questions without any notes. Also, Jean-Noel Darde, a senior lecturer at Paris 8 University, who runs a website that specializes in academic plagiarizing, suggested that the Chief Rabbi might have also used fragments of other books, written well before the 1980s, by authors such as Elie Wiesel, Jean-Marie Domenach and Charles Dobzynski.
Faced with this, the rabbi then blamed inadequate oversight of a student who did some of the writing. He said he had hired the student because of a busy schedule and had not informed his publisher of the arrangement. “It is the one and only time I made such an arrangement,” he wrote in a statement. “It was a terrible mistake. I have been fooled. However, I am responsible.” He also apologized for initially denying the accusation, calling his reaction “emotional, hasty and clumsy.” He said. “I retrospectively analyze it as denial.”
However, further proof of the man’s lying nature emerged when it was shown that Rabbi Bernheim had claimed an academic achievement that he had not earned. His Who’s Who entry, based on information he provided, says he was awarded from the Sorbonne an “agrégation de philosophie,” an elite and highly competitive academic distinction. But there is no record that he won such an honor. (Who does that remind you of?)
Left: Bernheim with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also a Jew, who awarded him the Legion of Honor in 2010. Sarkozy said twice that Bernheim is an “agrégé de philosophie,” a very competitive academic distinction in France. Bernheim did not contradict him.
There is growing pressure for Rabbi Bernheim to resign, but in a radio interview Tuesday night, he said he would not step down, adding that although he had made mistakes, “I have not committed fault in the exercise of my functions” as France’s chief rabbi. [UPDATE: On Thursday, the rabbi-in-denial faced reality and resigned. See here.]
At the same time, some fellow Jews rush to defend him. Richard Prasquier, a friend of the rabbi and president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, appealed to him to set the record straight and spoke movingly of the “torment” the rabbi must feel. Oy vey.
“Gilles Bernheim is my friend,” Dr. Prasquier said in an editorial on Tuesday in the organization’s newsletter. “A life like his cannot be hostage to a few failures in an area of intellectual or academic qualification related to his activity as a rabbi.” Dr. Prasquier said Rabbi Bernheim ought to be able to continue in his job, “where he has presented, in an eloquent voice, a Judaism open to the city and rigorous in its principles.”
The position of Chief Rabbi of France comes via the Centrale Consistoire, which was created in 1808 by Napoleon to oversee Jews in France. It was intended to make sure the unruly Jews followed the laws of France concerning military service, especially, and should take up mechanical trades; but that was lost sight of long ago.
Nobody ever said that Jews held high standards for themselves. The fact that Bernheim told pathetic lies implicating innocent persons in wrong-doing that he knew was his own doing, is inexcusable in a religious leader of any rank, let alone the highest rank. However, lying about his record at the Sorbonne, giving himself high academic distinctions that were never his, is actually typical Jewish behavior. We see it with Elie Wiesel, too.
How does this relate to Elie Wiesel, or to Kenneth Waltzer?
It relates to Jews who hold respectable, responsible positions in society, who are not really qualified, in spite of degrees from the Sorbonne or Harvard. These men WILL make mistakes and will cheat. In the case of Wiesel, every degree he has is honorary, and not much is expected of him. But in the case of Waltzer, he’s expected to demonstrate serious academic ability which, so far, he has not. I will be returning to this theme, and to three photographs which have been claimed to be Elie Wiesel, that are tied to key elements in the story of Elie in Buchenwald. These three photographs can be seen here, here and here. All three have been mislabeled, and there is no effort at all to correct the record. Just as there has been no effort to answer to Verena Dobnik’s false claim that she saw Elie Wiesel’s “death camp” tattoo during her interview of him in October 2012.
All of this will be tied together under the banner of perpetual lies by people in high places. But to what degree is Elie Wiesel the source of them? Who is running the show?