Israel Study Group of Nccj Critical of Bavarian Passion Play

The Israel Study Group, sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has declared its opposition to the 1984 Passion Play in Oberammergau, West Germany.

The group of 22 Christian scholars who study Judaism and the Jewish people has sent a letter to the mayor of the Bavarian village and the director of the Passion Play protesting the continuation of the structurally anti-Semitic drama.

“The play continues to use the tradition of dramatic anti-Judaism despite some attempts at revision,” said Fr. John J. Kelly, spokesman for the group. “The Second Vatican Council denounced anti-Semitism and absolved Jews of any blame for the crucifixion of Jesus.

“We recognize that there have been some well-intentioned efforts made to revise the play, but those well-meaning modifications are undermined by the drama and the way the story develops. We ask that visitors to the play be aware of the anti-Semitic aspects of the presentation and voice their opposition to this play which Adolf Hitler praised in the 1930′s.”

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the play which begins this month and has been put on every 10 years. More than 500,000 persons are expected to attend the performances which run four times a week through September.

In 1634 the people of Oberammergau vowed to present the Passion Play if relieved from the black plagues which had decimated their village. Miracle plays were popular in 17th century Europe and the play in Oberammeragau has become an institution.

Hundreds of villagers — actors, choir, orchestra and production — are part of the six-hour presentation in an outdoor theater seating 5,000 people. The 1970 production was boycotted because of anti-Semitism in the presentation.

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