Jewish, Catholic leaders applaud changes to 400 year old German Passion Play
(WJC)–Jewish and Catholic leader have welcomed changes to this year’s production of a 400 year old German Passion Play which removed several anti-Semitic stereotypes. Rabbi Gary Greenebaum of the American Jewish Committee and New York’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan said that this year’s production is more balanced than in the past, after the director removed several stereotypes that had raised concerns of anti-Semitism. The two had watched the play together in the Bavarian village where it has been performed for more than 400 years and said it was more sensitive than previous performances.
The Alpine village of Oberammergau has performed the passion play for more than 400 years and it is considered the most famous one in the world. It is staged only every ten years, and roughly half of the village’s population – some 2,500 people – perform in it. Changes to the performance, which began in 1633 to fulfil a promise the village made to God if he were to end the Black Plague, are always hotly debated.
In this year’s edition the director Christian Stueckl – who normally directs at Munich’s Volkstheater – has altered the script and staging of his third Oberammergau Passion Play to make even clearer that the Jews at the time could not be held responsible for the killing of Jesus. Stueckl has also highlighted the Jews’ oppression by the Romans, making Pontius Pilate a more provocative character, and clearly showing Jesus’ Jewish roots. Stueckl told AP at an interview in May that “Jesus understands himself completely as a Jew. He was never baptized, he never had a First Communion, but he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at 12 and died as a Jew on the cross. Increasing awareness of this is very important to me.”
Greenebaum said Jewish groups had worked with the producers of the Oberammergau Passion Play since the 1970s to help them overcome anti-Jewish stereotypes. He said this year’s performance “is more balanced than ever before and we need to appreciate the tremendous efforts that have gone into it.”
Archbishop Dolan said “I have always been sensitive to Jewish concerns that the play could perpetuate the ancient and tragically unjust misunderstanding that the Jews are responsible for the killing of Jesus, but thanks to the courage of the directors, the villagers and the Jewish leaders, the script has gradually been renewed.”
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.