Thursday, April 11, 2013

French Rabbi steps down in plagiarism scandal

France has been shaken by its own plagiarism scandal. Jean-Noël Darde has been documenting it on his blog Archéologie du "Copier-Coller" since March and the case has now reached the European press.

The German FAZ reported in an article on April 8, 2013 entitled Elitendämmerung (I won't link to the FAZ as they supported the Leistungsschutzrecht) that the Chief Rabbi in Paris, Gilles Bernheim, was embroiled in a strange plagiarism scandal. His work „Quarante Méditations Juives“ was found to be a plagiarism of, among others, Jean-François Lyotard and Elie Wiesel. Bernheim then accused Lyotard of having plagiarized from *him*, which Darde made clear was not the case.

So Bernheim changed his story. His ghostwriter (bizarrely called "Negro", or Nègre littéraire, black writer) was the plagiarist and did this to hurt him.

The taz took over the story on April 11 and noted that even though many of his books and official biographies had him listed as having a habilitation (second doctorate) in philosophy, he didn't actually have one. Spiegel Online spins it further, quoting Bernheim as saying that he never corrected this when people used the title, as he didn't want to disappoint his admirers.

The most curious plagiarism is his most often cited work, Mariage homosexuel, homoparentalité et adoption : ce que l’on oublie souvent de dire, lambasting homosexual marriage, parenting and adoption. Pope Benedict XVI seems to have quoted from it, but the true source is – a Catholic priest.

Although Bernheim had insisted a few days ago that he would not think of stepping down, he resigned on April 11, 2013 and is now "on leave", according to Spiegel Online.

Spiegel Online had also just recently (Feb. 18, 2013) published an interview with literature professor Hélène Maurel-Indart who noted that France is a paradise for plagiarists. She runs the web site Le Plagiat.

Jean-Noël Darde sent around two links to French articles about the case,
L'EXPRESS and Rue 89.


  1. Excellent comment by one of the Rabbi's publishers: "Most commentators described Bernheim as “stealing” words and sentences. This is wrongheaded. Plagiarism is a sin against truth, not property. It’s first and foremost a kind of lying, not a kind of stealing. He violated our trust by speaking in a voice that was not his own, which is why in this and other cases of plagiarism the writer loses intellectual and moral authority broadly."

    1. Hello Debora, Do you consider words, style of writing etc to be classified as Intellectual property....If you do why will you rather not see plagiarism as "stealing"?
      Weber-Wulff (2014) stated the word plagiarism is derived from the Latin word plagiarius, meaning someone who kidnaps the child or slave of another.

    2. The derivation of a word and its definition are two different things. "Stealing" also involves taking something away from someone, but a plagiarist copies. Intellectual property and copyright are related to plagiarism, but not the same thing. There is material that is not or no longer under copyright that is still plagiarized if copied, and material that is under copyright that is not plagiarized if properly quoted.


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