From the Rabbi's Desk
Rabbi Goldstein

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding last month’s release of Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion.” The film graphically recreates the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life, from his trial to his bloody crucifixion. While the Romans were responsible for both, the Jews of that time were not unhappy with the outcome. In their mind Jesus’ preachments were seditious and subversive and threatened the authority of the Jewish leadership of the day.  

Many rabbis and heads of Jewish organizations feel the movie is anti-Semitic. I believe the film reflects the New Testament’s anti-Jewish bent.  Hundreds of years of anti-Semitism did not come from thin air; its roots, as so many historians like James Carroll and Father Edward Flannery have written, come directly from the gospels of the New Testament.  

Mel Gibson, is a very conservative Catholic. His father is an avowed Holocaust denier. The Gibsons—father and son—may not like Jews, but the movie is an accurate portrayal of the role Jews played in the crucifixion story, according to the New Testament.   

Will the movie revive old anti-Semitic invectives against Jews? Will Jewish kids be called “Christ killers” by their Christian friends? I think not.  

First, when most Christians see the movie and its somewhat negative portrayal of Jews, they will not think of their Jewish neighbor up the street, just like when Jews see the movie Exodus, they tend not to relate it to modern Egyptians. Secondly, I do not believe movies, books, or even news articles that portray Jews in a negative light create anti-Semites. Anti-Semites exist. True, in their minds, this movie may justify their contempt, but it will not produce new anti-Semites.  

Christian Evangelicals will see this movie in droves, and love it, and they are among Israel’s (the modern Jewish state) strongest supporters. Go figure!   

I would not necessarily recommend the movie, nor would I suggest a boycott. It needs to stand on its own merits, and I trust the public’s judgment. 

I would however invite people to an important discussion to be held on Wednesday evening, March 31st at Merrimack College. Robert Leikind of the Anti-Defamation League, and Professor Paula Fredriksen of Boston University, one of the preeminent scholars of New Testament in the country, will join me and Professor Joe Kelly in a discussion of the movie and its implications.   More than anything, it is important to be informed. I hope you will join us for an important discussion of one of the more interesting religious issues of the year! 

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