Did Grand Rabbi Lie About His Sorbonne Degree?

As we’ve seen, France’s highest Jewish religious authority, Grand Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, got in hot water last week when it emerged that he’d

• plagiarized a deceased author, then
• tried in vain to make it seem that the dead guy had plagiarized him, then
• blamed the whole affair on either a careless student assistant or a ghostwriter.



But over the weekend, the story got even better. Via Agence France Presse:

Bernheim’s Who’s Who entry, based on information he provided, says he was awarded from Sorbonne University an “agrégation de philosophie”, a prestigious but extremely difficult to obtain achievement that permits the teaching of philosophy in French institutions. However university “agrégation” lists from 1972 to 2000 have no entry for Bernheim. The head of the association managing the lists, Blanche Lochmann, said the Grand Rabbi’s name was not in the agrégation lists kept by the French education ministry either.

“It is very difficult for a public figure to try to fool people as to whether he has an agrégation,” she said. “This is the first instance that is so blatant.”

Bernheim’s spokesman, Rabbi Moche Lewin, told AFP that the Grand Rabbi was not available to respond to the latest developments in the scandal.

[image via Jean Marc Morandini

Orthodox NY Jews Won’t Disclose Name of Herpes-Spreading Cleric; More Babies May Die

Talk about burying the lede.

ABC News devotes 900 words to explaining that two more babies have contracted herpes through a highly unsanitary circumcision procedure that involves a Jewish cleric putting his mouth on an infant’s bloody penis and sucking away the blood. We wrote about this on Moral Compass a couple of days ago (and prior to that, here).

Incredibly, the ABC editors, in their written coverage, hid the most explosive revelation way down, in the very last paragraph, on page 2:


The health department could take no action against the rabbi who performed the circumcision, because the parents would not reveal his identity.

So: Not only did the Yahweh-fearing couple not bother to prevent its own child from contracting herpes (the circumcision practice, and the virus it transmitted, has already killed two infants, and caused brain damage in two more); Mommy and Daddy feel they must now protect their bloodsucking holy man at the expense of other children who may well die or suffer from lifelong medical consequences.

Future victims galore:

About two-thirds of boys born in New York City’s Hasidic communities are circumcised in the oral suction manner, according to Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America.

The number of young victims may be under-reported; there are credible allegations from within the Jewish community that hospitals like New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center habitually suppress the real number of circumcision-related herpes infections.

Meanwhile, New York City’s Health Department says its hand are tied. The department has been fighting to implement a measure aimed at having Jewish parents sign a consent form for a ritual circumcision. The piece of paper would inform the parents of the risks, and make them acknowledge that they’re aware of what might happen. Never mind that children as young as eight weeks will continue to die even if such forms are presented and signed.

But as weak and ineffectual as the consent-form initiative is, various rabbis oppose it “on religious grounds.”

“This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the Hasidic United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, told ABCNews.com. “If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice.”

Except that they’re fucking not, as more tiny corpses may soon attest.

[image via Failed Messiah]

Babies Receive Precious Religious Gift: Herpes

Per the New York Daily News, in the past three months,

two Brooklyn infants have contracted herpes through a controversial religious circumcision ritual, according to the city’s health department.

The unidentified baby boys became sick after the centuries-old, ultra-Orthodox ritual associated with the bris known as metzizah b’peh. Under the practice, the rabbi or mohel removes blood from the wound on the baby’s penis with his mouth.

The Bloomberg administration has moved to require mohels who perform the ritual to provide parents with a document informing them of the health risks involved. The parents must then sign a consent form.

Y1ZQDVu.jpg (651×961)

A consent form is, however, unlikely to save young lives, or protect infants’ health. It is a fact that infants whose tiny bloody penises have been sucked by a Jewish cleric sometimes contract herpes and die.

Oh well — as long as all the adults have covered their asses legally, we’re good, right?

Previous Jewish-baby-dick-sucking post here.

[Image via imgur]

A Nation of Believers … In Just About Anything

Irrational beliefs are alive and well in the United States. For instance,

One in five Republican voters believes Barack Obama is the ‘antichrist’ and nearly a third of all Americans think a secret power elite controls the world, according to new research on conspiracy theories.

A survey by the Public Policy Polling group aimed to shed light on the link between political leanings and belief in conspiracy theories. The poll found that:

• 34 percent of Republicans polled believe a New World Order controls the world, compared with 35 percent of independent voters and 15 percent of Democrats.

• 29 percent of US voters believe aliens exist.

• 13 percent of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, including 22 percent of Romney voters.

More here.


I’m happy for people to believe whatever they want — no skin off my backside. All the same, it can be dispiriting to live in a country whose populace takes to nonsense and disinformation as a fish takes to water.

The survey steered clear of asking about delusional beliefs in various deities, but we know the picture would have been bleak indeed.

[image via Shirtoid]

Amen. I Mean, Right On.

Via BrightRock.


Bearded Woman Attacked For Crucifying Jesus

This happened in Brighton, England, last Sunday. From the Argus newspaper:

A beard-wearing woman was attacked as she crucified Jesus. The crime of Passion took place as the woman played a priest [named Caiaphas] during the open-air retelling of the Easter story.

Brighton actress attacked during _crucifixion_ of Jesus (From The Argus)

Jeanie Civil’s attacker ripped her beard from her face and punched her during a performance of The Passion of Christ in Brighton on Easter Sunday. He yelled “Shame on you!” before Mrs Civil’s fellow cast members, dressed as soldiers, held him back.

The victim said she wondered if the man was an ardent Christian who disliked her character’s actions against the savior. “He might be an ardent Christian, or anti-Jewish,” she offered. 

In the New Testament, Caiaphas is the Jewish high priest, appointed by Romans, who is thought to have organized the plan to kill Jesus.

[tip of the thorny crown to Dangerous Minds; image via The Argus]

Rabbi, Do You Copy?

And here I thought that Thou shalt not steal was a revered commandment by Jews as as well as Christians. From Haaretz:

France’s Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim acknowledged that he plagiarized several parts of his latest book. Bernheim said Tuesday in a statement that parts of the 2011 book “Forty Jewish Meditations” were taken from other sources.

Loose translation of the headline: "We have lost our understanding of what it means to be moral."

Bernheim before the scandal (condemning gay marriage): “We have lost our understanding of what it means to be moral.” Thanks for that, Rabbi.

Even more disturbing may be that when confronted with his plagiarism, he lied about what he did — and smeared a dead man in doing so.

The affair started in early March when the Strass de la Philosophie blog revealed that a passage on hasidic exegesis from Bernheim’s work was almost identical to an interview of the philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard that appears in the 1996 book “Questioning Judaism” by Elisabeth Weber.

Soon after the disclosure, Bernheim said some of the meditations in his book were transcripts of lessons he gave in the 1980s while he was a chaplain for French Jewish students. He said the lessons were often recorded and that copies of his personal notes were distributed to the listeners, implying that Lyotard, who died in 1998, plagiarized him and not the opposite.

His version was contradicted by Weber, who interviewed Lyotard and specified that the philosopher answered her questions without a single note.

Bernheim still hasn’t come clean. While nominally accepting responsibility for the plagiarism in a “the bucks stops here” kind of way, he insists that he didn’t know about the pilfered passages in his book; he was hoodwinked by his “ghostwriter,” he claims. Reminds me of how copyright infringers on the web always claim that it’s the webmaster’s fault.

We will learn the truth, I think, especially now that the investigation is getting crowd-sourced following allegations that Bernheim has been at this for some time:

Jean-Noel Darde, a senior lecturer at Paris 8 University, suggested on his website that Bernheim also might have plagiarized books by other authors such as Elie Wiesel, Jean-Marie Domenach and Charles Dobzynski.

[image via la-croix.com

Oz Orthodox Jews Rocked By Sex Scandal

A former vice president of the Executive Council of Australian Jews has begun dedicating much of his time to calling out Jewish child sex abuse that he claims was (or perhaps is) pervasive in his country.

“It’s been endemic within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community — both the abuses and the cover-ups. There’s enough evidence to support that,” [Menachem] Waks says. “There are so many cases, so many allegations, so many perpetrators, so many victims and so many more allegations yet to be revealed.”


Waks (photo) says that he himself was molested as a student at Chabad’s Yeshivah College in the 1980s,

…not once, but several times, and not by one person, but by two: a security guard and the son of a venerated Chabad emissary. Waks said he was molested in a synagogue and in a ritual bath, where he was lured to bathe in the nude by his alleged assailant. …

In August, Yeshivah Center, the college’s parent body, apologized “unreservedly” for “any historical wrongs that may have occurred.”

That feeble, non-specific apology does nothing to help kids who were sexually assaulted by the pious adults who were supposed to take care of them. And happily enough, it doesn’t mean much in terms of the justice system either: pretty words notwithstanding, this year, three cases of Yeshiva College abuse will be examined in Australian courts, and Waks says he has only just begun.

[image by Tony Fink via Times of Israel]

Ritual Sucking of Baby Penises Unhealthy?

You think? Via Failed Messiah:

Israeli doctors have found a herpes (HSV-1) infection in a two-and-a-half-year-old boy they believe came from metzitzah b’peh, the direct mouth-to-bloody-penis sucking done by many mohels (and almost all hasidic mohels) just after cutting off the baby’s foreskin and ripping off the membrane under it. If correct, these doctors may have found the cause of what many believe to be the noticeably higher number of learning disabled children in hasidic communities.


More here, herehere, and here.

[image via Bigot Vanquisher]

More Education = Less Religion

Does more education lead to less religion?

Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner says yes, and he bases that on a study by Daniel Hungerman, an economist at Notre Dame who studies religious faith. Hungerman, using an exclusively Canadian data set, concluded that

…higher levels of education lead to lower levels of religious participation later in life. An additional year of education leads to a 4-percentage-point decline in the likelihood that an individual identifies with any religious tradition; the estimates suggest that increases in schooling can explain most of the large rise in non-affiliation in Canada in recent decades.

Of course, this is not at all the same as saying that the religious are less intelligent. For those who care to wade into that minefield, there’s Prof. Helmuth Nyborg’s 2008 study. Nyborg correlated religiosity and IQ, and found that

…atheists scored an average of 1.95 IQ points higher than agnostics, 3.82 points higher than liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than dogmatic persuasions.

In a separate research project that involved IQ levels of almost 7,000 U.S. adolescents, Nyborg and a fellow academic, Prof. Richard Lynn, concluded that atheists scored six IQ points higher than non-atheists. They also found that at the international level, the nations with the biggest populations of atheists are the ones that scored highest for overall intelligence.


Fundamentalists are very often wary of children receiving a good (higher) education, and now we know that, in their own warped way, they’re completely right.

[image via pkpolitics]

Time Discovers Faith’s Dark Side

In my lifetime, people of faith will probably always be allowed more manifestations of loopiness than non-believers.

If, as a secular American, I go around licking fenceposts every afternoon, and occasionally smash my forehead into one, it probably won’t be long until a kindly police officer takes me on a ride to the nearest mental hospital.

But if I claim that my behavior is my small congregation’s way of honoring Jesus’s sacrifice — a form of penitence that allows us to spiritually travel “nearer, my God, to thee” — chances are excellent that I will be left alone. I might even draw a bit of quiet admiration for my sefless devotional sacrifice.

That said, there seems to be an increasing awareness that not all forms of religiosity are healthy. “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS) is a pathology that’s no longer easily dismissed; and even Time magazine, which can hardly be accused of being hostile to religion, now wishes to temper its zeal in spreading the notion that faith is necessarily a force for good.


Can Your Child Be Too Religious? Time asks — and with some equivocating, the answer the magazine gives is a clear yes.

Religion can be a source of comfort that improves well-being. But some kinds of religiosity could be a sign of deeper mental health issues. …

Your child’s devotion may be a great thing, but there are some kids whose religious observances require a deeper look. For these children, an overzealous practice of their family faith — or even another faith  — may be a sign of an underlying mental health issue or a coping mechanism for dealing with unaddressed trauma or stress. …

Some children suffer from scrupulosity, a form of OCD that involves a feeling of guilt and shame. Sufferers obsessively worry that they have committed blasphemy, been impure or otherwise sinned. They tend to focus on certain rules or rituals rather than the whole of their faith. They worry that God will never forgive them. And this can signal the onset of depression or anxiety, says John Duffy, a Chicago area clinical psychologist specializing in adolescents. “Kids who have made ‘mistakes’ with sex or drug use,” he says, “may have trouble forgiving themselves.”

Seems self-evident, but it’s nice to see the psychological downsides of faith acknowledged in a mainstream publication.

Such fastidiousness to religious practices may not seem so harmful, but extreme behavior such as delusions or hallucinations may be a sign of serious mental illness. Seeing and hearing things that are not there can be symptoms of manic-depressive, bipolar disorder, or early onset schizophrenia. But parents may be less attuned to such unhealthy behavior when it occurs under the guise of faith.

Whole story here.

[image via aclj.org]

Man of God Rapes His Three Daughters

According to one passage in the Talmud, masturbation is such a severe and unpardonable sin that

…in the case of a man, the hand that reaches below the navel should be chopped off.

So that got me wondering which body part, per the Talmud, ought to be amputated in the case of a rabbi who rapes underage girls. This guy even stands accused of raping his own daughters. Any suggestions?


A prominent Israeli rabbi has been arrested on charges of sexually assaulting his three teenage daughters. … The rabbi, who has not yet been publicly named, is reportedly being charged with multiple accounts of sexual assault and invasion of privacy, Israel’s Ynet news website reported on Wednesday.

He was arrested 10 days ago but has been remanded in custody for an additional two days. An indictment filed with the al-Quds (Jerusalem) District Court said the suspect began molesting the victims, ages 12-14, more than 10 years ago. The document said the rabbi sexually abused one of the elder daughters for two years, despite her pleas.

[image via Press TV]