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But even that has been called into question.
Jean-Noel Darde, a French academic who fights against plagiarism and has been one of the sources of the accusations, said on Tuesday that Bernheim had also plagiarised in that leaflet, prompting France’s largest Jewish association to demand an explanation of the rabbi’s behaviour.
Last week, another blogger accused Bernheim of plagiarism in a 2002 book and L’Express magazine revealed he had not earned the prestigious rank of philosophy professor that was often attached to his name.
Although his official biography did not mention him passing the “agregation”. the highly selective examination needed to qualify as a professor, Bernheim never disputed the title when it appeared in newspaper articles and publicity for his books.
Bernheim was rabbi of the largest synagogue in Paris and was a leading Jewish intellectual when he challenged predecessor, Joseph Sitruk, in a hard-fought campaign to become chief rabbi in 2008 that revealed deep divisions in French Judaism.
“When you’re successful a lot of people consider you as some sort of hero … so you don’t want to disappoint them so you propagate the image they have of you,” Bernheim told the station, sounding calm as admitted and explained each allegation in turn.
The scandal follows similar ones in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defence and education ministers had to quit after parts of their doctoral theses were found to be plagiarised, and the resignation of an Italian anti-corruption campaigner who claimed academic degrees he did not have.
Hungary’s president also had to resign a year ago after a plagiarism scandal over his doctorate.