The Shmooze

ADL Study: 'Passion Play' (Still) Antisemitic

By Michael Kaminer

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Did the world really need a research paper to determine that the once-a-decade “Passion Play” in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau, Germany, conveys anti-Jewish sentiments, as has been the general consensus since the show’s 1634 debut?

The Anti-Defamation League apparently thought so. The group commissioned the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations (CCJCR), which bills itself as “a network of academic and educational organizations that promotes mutual understanding between Jews and Christians,” to create the report, which was released this week.

A “scholarly team” of members examined the script for this year’s edition of the “Passion Play,” which depicts the final days of Jesus. On the plus side, according to the 16-page report: “(1) Jewish society in Jesus’ day is presented as variegated and vibrant; (2) Jesus is clearly shown to be a Jew.”

Now the bad news: “Jewish opponents of Jesus are unjustifiably depicted in such extreme terms as to risk impressing on the audience a negative image of the entire Jewish community. We also noted other negative features of the script.”

According to Ynet, which broke the story, researchers also explained that “’Passion Plays,’ which for centuries have expressed popular devotion to Jesus, ‘have also typically depicted the Jewish people as unfaithful to God and as “Christ killers,” a depiction that has contributed to hostility, sometimes violent hostility, towards Jews.’”

In case anyone mistook them for theater critics, its authors emphasized that the report “did not consider staging or theatrical factors.”

And if all of this sounds familiar, that’s because the same drama played out 10 years ago between the ADL and “Passion Play” organizers. In response to accusations of antisemitism, director Christian Stueckl changed the script in 1990, according to Bloomberg News. He’s still the director this year.

The new production premiered May 15. It will run for 102 performances and is expected to draw half a million visitors. “Performances take place every day except Monday and Wednesday through Oct. 3. Be sure to procure a blanket and a cushion,” Bloomberg News helpfully notes.


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