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Bernheim, Gilles


BERNHEIM, GILLES (1952– ), French Orthodox rabbi and philosopher. Bernheim simultaneously completed rabbinical studies at the Seminaire Israelite de France and higher studies in philosophy. As a rabbi, he was first appointed chaplain for students (from 1978) and academics (until 1996). He gained recognition in the Jewish as well as the non-Jewish world through his effort to combine Jewish tradition and Western philosophy, an endeavor that he tried to convey through numerous articles, conferences, and books. From 1996 he headed the Torah Committee at the Consistory of Paris, and was appointed in 1997 chief rabbi of Paris' main synagogue, the Grande Synagogue de la Victoire. Committed to interfaith dialogue, Bernheim was deputy president of the Amitie Judeo-Chretienne de France, an association founded in the aftermath of World War ii following in the footsteps of Jules Isaac's work. Ethics and social problems were also central to Bernheim's commitment, and he developed expertise on problems of medical ethics which led him to be chosen as an honorary member of the Conseil National du Sida, a government body dedicated to fighting the aids epidemic and helping its victims. Bernheim was also deputy president of the Medical Ethics Committee at the Consistory of Paris. According to him, "in the philosophy of Israel, there is neither dissociation nor a gap between ethics and religion. Concern and care for the other is the way to meet the divine." Such a vision of Judaism has deep implications for the life of the city (as clearly developed in his book Un rabbin dans la cite). Hence Bernheim's dedication to meeting the face of the other, in the sense defined by Emmanuel *Levinas, and his attitude of openness and dialogue towards Gentiles as well as Jews, with emphasis on reception and transmission, mutual teaching and enrichment. This commitment ran counter to ultra-Orthodox tendencies in modern-day French Jewry, which may explain his failure to be elected as France's chief rabbi in 1994.

[Dror Franck Sullaper (2nd ed.)]

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