Germany's world renowned Oberammergau Passion play has been modified to expunge negative images of Jews.
   Jesus' Jewishness has been emphasised for the first time in the play about the last five days of his life. He is called "rabbi" and gives a Hebrew blessing at the Last Supper, depicted as a Passover seder held around a menorah. Most importantly, the blood oath that assigned Jews collective guilt for Jesus' death was removed.
   "I can say positively that it is a turning point," said Irving Levine, an interfaith expert for the American Jewish Committee, which has been working with the Anti-Defamation League since the 1960s to remove Jewish stereotypes from the Oberammergau play.
   The question of how Jews are depicted at Oberammergau, the oldest continually acted Passion play in Europe, has been an issue since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s reversed nearly 2000 years of church teachings about the collective responsibility of the Jews for Jesus' death.
   "One reason is there's some leverage that can be brought on the village after Vatican II. And two, it's Germany. There's both some increased sensitivity and enormous sense of responsibility for death with Jewish questions," said James Shapiro, a director of the theatre program at New York's Columbia University and author of a new history of Oberammergau.
   Significantly, the directors also suggest dissension within the Jewish leadership. For example, high priests no longer wear horned hats, but are clothed in different colored robes and caps of varying sizes to suggest a hierarchy and expunge suggestions that Jewish society uniformly opposed Jesus' message.
23 May 00


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