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French rabbi in scandal takes leave

PARIS — France’s top rabbi announced Thursday he is taking leave from his post, hoping to end a scandal that has unsettled the Jewish community after he borrowed other people’s work and lied about his educational pedigree.

The Central Consistory of France accepted Rabbi Gilles Bernheim’s request for time away at an urgent meeting. Bernheim, 60, apologized, saying he could not do his job with the necessary “serenity.”

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“He hopes that the serious events he is blamed for and which mark him don’t obscure all the actions carried out in the name of his various rabbinical functions,” the statement said. “He prays to be heard in his request for forgiveness.”

Richard Prasquier, the head of France’s largest umbrella group of Jewish organizations, CRIF, said by phone that two rabbis will temporarily fill the post of Grand Rabbi of France.

Bernheim faced accusations by a French academic that parts of his 2011 book “Forty Jewish Meditations” were lifted from others.

Bernheim had also claimed to have received an “aggregation” — or high-level certification — in philosophy. On ­Radio Shalom, he acknowledged he did not have one.

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