Jews, viewing Gibson film, decry destructive imagery

new york | Representatives of two Jewish groups who attended screenings of Mel Gibson’s upcoming movie “The Passion of the Christ’ said it contained offensive stereotypes about the Jewish role in the crucifixion.

The American Jewish Committee, which sent its interfaith experts to church screenings in Florida and Illinois, said that the movie contained “unnecessary and destructive imagery of Jews’ and “represents a disturbing setback’ to relations between Jews and Christians.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who has accused Gibson of holding anti-Semitic views, saw the film for the first time in Florida. He said it is an “unambiguous portrayal of Jews as being responsible for the death of Jesus.’

Gibson, who directed, funded and co-scripted the film, has repeatedly denied that his movie maligns Jews.

Jewish groups have been worried that Gibson’s script would ignore modern teaching by the Roman Catholic Church and many other denominations that Jews were not collectively responsible for Jesus’ death. The notion of Jewish guilt fueled anti-Semitism for centuries.

Rabbi David Elcott, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious affairs, said the movie was not anti-Semitic, but he called it “inflammatory.’ He did not anticipate any violence against Jews as a result of the movie. He did however, fear that the film would undermine recent progress in Jewish-Catholic relations.

“The movie undermines the sense of community that has existed between Jews and Christians for decades,’ Elcott said. “This film makes it more important than ever for like-minded Christians and Jews to reassert their dedication to promoting interfaith harmony.”