WASHINGTON (Jun. 24)
The film version of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” opening Wednesday in first run theaters across the nation, was denounced here by the member agencies of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council for reviving “religious sources of anti-Semitism.”
A statement adopted at the NJCRAC plenary session castigated the motion picture as “worse than the stage play” in dramatizing “the old falsehood of the Jews’ collective responsibility for the death of Jesus.”
The statement charged that the film’s, “stereo-types are more extreme” in its distortions of Biblical history, “insidious” in its exaggeration of “some of the most baneful anti-Jewish notions traditionally associated with the Passion story.”
Albert E. Arent of Washington, NJCRA chairman, said that NJCRAC agencies were generally reluctant to publicly condemn films or literature, to avoid implications of censorship. But a report on “Jesus Christ Superstar” by the Council Broadcasting and Film Committee “finds the stereotyping and historical distortions outrageous,” he said.
The NJCRAC statement charged that the motion picture “unambiguously lays primary responsibility for the Passion to Jewish priests” who are depicted as “contemptuous, sadistic and bloodthirsty.” The statement said that the role of Judas, portrayed by a Black actor, is “magnified far beyond historic evidence,” representing him as a dupe of the Jewish priesthood in a way that “could easily exacerbate present-day Black-Jewish relations.”
The film is a “singularly damaging setback” to Christian-Jewish relations, the statement said. It noted that the Second Vatican Council and Protestant agencies have rejected the “pernicious idea” of Jewish guilt for the crucifixion but “Jesus Christ Superstar” revives it.”