New Chief Rabbi Appointed in France

Gilles Bernheim, the rabbi of Paris’s largest synagogue, defeated incumbent Joseph Sitruk to become France’s new chief rabbi in a hotly contested election decided June 22.

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Palestinian peace activist Haj Ibrahim Abu el-Hawa and Jewish settlers attend a rally called for by the Israeli Tag Meir (Light Tag) organization, which denounces racism and calls for peace between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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Image: Anya Ulinich

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Image: Naomi Zeveloff

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Image: Naomi Zeveloff

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Image: Archiwum Panstowowego Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau

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Barbara Puc

Image: Sergiusz Scheller

Barbara Puc

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Image: getty images

Bernheim, a 56-year-old philosopher and proponent of a more modern Orthodoxy, will take over from Sitruk, 63, a popular figure who held the position since 1987. Bernheim garnered a clear majority, 184-99, to win the seven-year mandate, which will begin in January 2009. In addition to overseeing the training of rabbis and relations with other faiths, Bernheim has been immediately confronted with France’s realities: A Jewish youth was beaten up in a Paris neighborhood, an incident that Bernheim condemned as antisemitic. Mohammed Moussaoui, who was just elected head of France’s Representative Muslim Council, joined him in his condemnation.

In interviews in the French media, both leaders called for a new openness, with Bernheim stressing the need to reach out to those outside the Jewish faith — a position some of his opponents had tried to use against him during the campaign.

Written by

Marc Perelman

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New Chief Rabbi Appointed in France

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