AJC to Bring Young U.S. Jews to Dialogue at Oberammergau Passion Play

May 3, 2010 – New York -- The American Jewish Committee (AJC) is bringing to Germany a group of Jewish students and young professionals to participate in an unprecedented interreligious dialogue with young German Christians surrounding the Oberammergau Passion Play. The May 6 - 16 visit is taking place in cooperation with Germany Close Up.

“While we have long been deeply troubled by the Oberammergau Passion Play, 2010 presents a superb opportunity for educating a new generation of American Jews and Christian Germans about the play’s history, context and impact,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Associate Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “Only through such interactions can we assure that the significant advances in Christian-Jewish understanding and cooperation are sustained and furthered.”

The Oberammergau Passion Play, which opens May 15, and runs through October 3, takes place every ten years. The Christian-Jewish dialogue will engage the young Americans and Germans in discussions about Germany’s history and its current relationship with world Jewry. In Oberammergau, they will together meet with Passion play organizers, actors and directors, and view the production.

For more than 40 years AJC, recognized globally as a pioneering leader in interreligious relations, has been an active and constructive critic of the Oberammergau production.

“Our efforts to expose and reform discreet elements of the Oberammergau Passion Play resulted over the years in the removal or modification of many of the play’s stereotypes that foment anti-Jewish attitudes,” said Rabbi Marans. Several months ago, he visited Oberammergau, with other concerned Jewish and Christian leaders, and met with the play’s production team to secure further revisions for the 2010 production.Those conversations fell short of eliminating all elements offensive to Jews.

“We are deeply disappointed that more than 40 years after Nostra Aetate, the 2010 Oberammergau Passion Play script continues to place primary responsibility for the death of Jesus in Jewish leadership’s hands,” said Rabbi Marans. “Passion plays, especially Oberammergau, the most influential of its genre in the world, can be troubling vehicles for anti-Judaism and, tragically, have inspired violence against Jews.”

In addition to events in Oberammergau, the AJC group will participate in a seminar and interreligious dialogue with theology students at Berlin’s Humboldt University; a dialogue in Munich at an Ecumenical Church Day gathering of 100,000 young German Protestants and Catholics; and a memorial visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Participants in the AJC-Germany Close Up program come from cities across the U.S., including Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., as well as Montreal.

AJC, founded in 1906, with headquarters in New York, offices across the United States and around the world, including in Berlin, is the premier global Jewish advocacy organization. Germany Close Up, established in 2007, with support from the German government, provides American Jewish students and young professionals with opportunities to experience modern Germany up close and personally.
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