Déjà vu? Another French chief rabbi accused of copying

By Roger Sloan and Shirli Sitbon, July 11, 2014

Two weeks after his election as Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia has been accused of plagiarism.

The allegations come in the wake of an uproar over Rabbi Korsia's predecessor, Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, who stepped down after admitting to plagiarising several authors and lying on his CV.

According to French investigative news site Mediapart, sections of Etre juif et français ("To be a Jew and a Frenchman"), Rabbi Korsia's 2006 biography of Jacob Kaplan, France's post-war chief rabbi, were "borrowed" from other sources without proper credits.

Mediapart claimed that paragraphs were lifted from an essay on philosopher Emmanuel Levinas by Torah scholar Georges Hansel.

It was also alleged that sections from L'Etoile et la Francisque ("The Star and the Franciscan"), a 1990 study of Jewry under the Vichy regime by historians Maurice Moch and Alain Michel, appeared in the chief rabbi's book.

Rabbi Korsia's predecessor admitted to lying on his CV

Rabbi Korsia did reference L'Etoile et la Francisque in his bibliography, but allegedly failed to describe the excerpts as quotations.

While expressing sympathy and respect for Rabbi Korsia as a man and rabbi, Mr Michel said that his actions amounted to "copy and paste".

Only a few sections of the 400-page Etre juif et français have been queried. In addition, the rabbi's book was based on a doctorate in history validated by the University of Poitiers. According to historian Paul Levy, now the chairman of the Tours Jewish community, who supervised Rabbi Korsia's doctorate, the original work included "more than 550 page notes and 300 bibliographic references".

A book on Kabbalah written by Rabbi Korsia in 2007 included lengthy excerpts from a theological book written in 2001 by the late Chief Rabbi Emmanuel Chouchenna, the head of the Paris Rabbinical School in the 1980s.

But Rabbi Korsia has replied that the publisher asked him to complete some chapters of Rabbi Chouchenna's book after he became too ill to write.

A spokesman for Rabbi Korsia denied that there had been any plagiarism and said that the accusations were "made in the last few days of the chief rabbi's election campaign: their obvious target was to delegitimise his candidacy on the eve of a critical election".

He added that the accusations originated from an anonymous blogger "whose explicit goal was to torpedo a nomination" and claimed that the blogger had forged excerpts from the rabbi's book.

Last updated: 6:45am, July 11 2014