Report Changes in Passion Play Reduce Anti-semitic Potential

An official of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith has expressed gratification that revisions have significantly reduced the anti-Semitic potential from the 1980 Passion Play in Oberammergau, West Germany. Nat Komeny, chairman of the ADL’s national program committee, praised Oberammergau officials and villagers “for their willingness to listen to Jewish criticisms of the traditional pageant to make changes in accordance with the spirit, principles and guidelines of Vatican 11.”

Komeny’s comments followed a report to the program committee on the changes in the Passion Play script by Dr. Leonard Swidler, professor of Catholic Thought and Interreligious Dialogue at Temple University, editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies and a consultant to the Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

IMPORTANT CHANGES OUTLINED

Swidler said that many positive changes in the 1980 script have eliminated, altered and mode previously anti-Jewish passages more accurate historically. He said “important changes made in the 1980 text” include:

Eliminating the implication that the Jewish people as a whole were complicit in Jesus’ death, striking from the text of the “specifically anti-Jewish statement” placed in Jesus’ mouth at the Last Supper that “The Old Covenant which My Father made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has reached its end”; excising scenes stereotyping Jews as conniving merchants” and including in a new portion of the pageant’s prologue a greeting to Jews as “brothers and sisters of the people from whom the Savior came.”

Swidler, who is also co-author with Fr. Gerard Sloyon, professor of New Testament at Temple University, of a 110-page analysis of the anti-Semitic content of the Passion Play which was sponsored and published by the ADL in 1978, said, “The most nakedly anti-Semitic portion” of the play was a section of poetry dropped from the 1980 script, which transformed the story of Purim into an allegory justifying former “traditional Christian rejectionist theology.”

While acknowledging the positive progress that has been made, Swidler said that there are still areas for further improvement in the pageant. Komeny, pointing out that ADL officials have been invited to witness the presentation of the 1980 pageant, said he expects “our cooperative relationship with Oberammergau to continue and the momentum of the forward movement to go on to an even more positive interpretation of the Jewish foundations of Christianity.”

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