Friday, June 27, 2008

The New Chief Rabbi of France

The Israeli Yated Ne'eman has an interesting description of the newly elected Chief Rabbi of France (link):

The Jewish community around the country was saddened by the news of the election of Prof. Gilles Bernheim to the post of chief rabbi. The elections were held in accordance with the ancient system introduced by Napoleon Bonaparte 200 years ago, which grants 300 community leaders and activists the right to take part in the vote. The results do not reflect the will of a majority of French Jews.
Note the following from last week's issue of the Forward (link):
The election of France’s chief rabbi is generally a quiet affair decided by insiders. This year, thanks to the freedoms of the Internet, the campaign has turned into a raucous, innuendo-filled cyber-battle featuring Facebook pages, video postings — some of them fabricated — and furious blogging.
Why is Yated Ne'eman so upset about Rabbi Bernheim's election? This might explain it (link):
Bernheim, who won by an overwhelming majority, is an Orthodox rabbi who has frequently spoken out in public on a wide range of issues. A former university chaplain, he is the rabbi of the largest Paris synagogue, the Synagogue de la Victoire, and has been active in dialogue with Christians. Bernheim recently published "Le rabbin et le cardinal" (The Rabbi and The Cardinal), a long conversation with Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. This commitment to dialogue earned him some criticism from more traditionalist voices in what turned out to be an unusually lively election campaign.
And from the Forward:
While both men are Orthodox rabbis, the charismatic Sitruk advocates a traditionalist worldview while the cerebral Bernheim stands for a more liberal approach and more openness to the world and to other faiths.
Evidently, that is sufficient reason to call him Professor rather than Rabbi. I don't know what Yated wrote when the our teacher, the shining light of the exile, Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks was elected (appointed?) to his position, but in his case it would actually have been somewhat accurate to call him "Professor" because he did, at one time, serve in that capacity -- although it still would have been an insult. I'm not sure if Rabbi Bernheim ever served as a professor.

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