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New French Chief Rabbi Elected

The French Jewish community elected a new chief rabbi.

Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, 56, defeated the longtime incumbent, Rabbi Joseph Sitruk, by a vote of 184 to 99 in Sunday’s election for the seven-year term.

Sitruk, 63, is in his third term as the spiritual head of France’s 600,000 Jews. He had defeated Bernheim in 1994 in the vote by rabbis and communal leaders. Both are Orthodox rabbis.

Bernheim, who heads the largest synagogue in Paris, will take over January 1.

The election battle pitting the Ashkenazic Bernheim and the Sephardic Sitruk turned so rancorous that France’s two major Jewish communal groups, the CRIF and the Unified Jewish Social Fund, issued a joint statement urging calm on both sides.

Also Sunday, Joel Mergui, 50, was elected as the new head of the official Jewish Consistory, replacing Jean Kahn.

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