Symposium in Bavaria on Passion Play

The American Jewish Committee announced that a leading Catholic academic institution in Bavaria, West Germany, would sponsor a symposium of Catholic and Jewish scholars in Munich next month on the relationship of the Oberammergau Passion Play to the development of anti-Semitism in Germany and in Christian culture. The symposium, which will be held Nov. 10, will be sponsored by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria in cooperation with the AJCommittee’s Interreligious Affairs Department.

Announcement of the symposium was made by Miles Jaffe, chairman of the AJCommittee’s Interreligious Affairs Commission, at the annual meeting of the Committee’s National Executive Council. Last July, Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, AJCommittee national director of interreligious affairs, and William S. Trosten, AJCommittee’s director of development, met with Dr. Franz Henrich, president of the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, on the Oberammergau Passion Play issue. At that time, the AJCommittee leaders suggested that a dialogue among Catholic and Jewish scholars on the historical and theological issues represented in the Passion Play could prove helpful, and the Academy subsequently decided to sponsor a symposium on the subject.

Tanenbaum will present one of the major papers at the symposium. He has also been invited to speak in the village of Oberammergau following the symposium on the religious and historical factors that have contributed to anti-Semitism in Germany and elsewhere. It is believed that never before has a Jewish spokesman been invited to address a public gathering in Oberammergau on anti-Semitism and Jewish-Christian relations.

Outlining the significance of the symposium, Jaffe pointed out that this will be the first time in the history of the Oberammergau Passion Play, which dates back to 1634, that a German Catholic group of such prestige has taken the initiative in cooperation with a Jewish body to examine the root causes of anti-Semitism engendered by certain accounts of Jesus’ death, including Passion Plays. More than 20 years ago, the AJCommittee made an exhaustive analysis of the script then used in the play’s performance and concluded that it was a highly anti-Semitic document.

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