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PAGE 12 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS OCTOBER 17 By Joe Berkofsky Hier, dean and founder of the ans illegally obtained a rough Simon Wiesenthai Center in draft of the script, prompting NEW YORK (JTA)--Movie Los Angeles. the U.S. Conference of Catho- star Mel Gibson's controver- They have led an unsuccess- lic Bishops, which had report- sial $25 million film about ful campaign to confer with edly lent the panel its bless- Jesus has sparked a new Gibson to discuss their con- ings, todistance itself and of- battle--among Jews. cerns in the hope that he will ficiallyreservejudgmentpend- For months, Gibson's "The tone down the film's alleged ing the film's opening. Passion'hasspurredheadlines anti- Jewish theme. Since then, Gibson has from the LosAngeles Times to "We're not into censorship, wrapped up production on the the New York Times, fromFox we'reintosensitivity,"Foxman film in Italy and is applying News to the New Yorker, for told JTA. the post-production touches its reportedly graphic por- On the other side standto the film, said a spokesman, trayal of the last days of Jesus those such as Rabbi Yechiel Alan Neirob. and its laying heavy blame for Eckstein, president andGibson's movie company is his death on the Jews. founder of the International still negotiating to find a dis- Much of the media cover- Fellowship of Christians and tributor for the film, which is age has focused on the con- Jews, and Michael Medved, a in Aramaic and Latin with flict between Gibson, whobe- conservative film critic and English subtitles. longstoatraditionalistCatho- observant Jew, who say the Meanwhile, Gibson has lic sect opposed to Vatican re- drive to refocus"The Passion" stagedscreeningsofthe movie forms in general, and some will misfire--and badly, for private groups of Chris- Jewish figures who warn the "The Jewish response so far tians and Jews. Some Chris- filmwillstiranti-Semitismby hasbeenextraordinarilycoun- tianshavewalkedawaydeclar- splicing together the most terproductiveofJewish inter- ing themselves enraptured, anti-Jewish portions of the ests, short-sighted, ill-consid- but Philadelphia's Ukrainian New Testament gospels with ered and irresponsible," Archbishop, Stefan Soroka, extra-biblicalwritingsofmys- Medved said. was not among them. tics who blamed all Jews for Christians may view theSoroka told the Catholic the crucifixion, criticism by Foxman and oth- News Service that the film left Now that debate is turning ersas"the Jews trying to stifle him"uneasy" for its depiction inward, as Jews point fingers us from practicing our reli- ofan "evil" high Jewish priest at one another over the way gion," Eckstein said. Caiaphas, who according to they have dealt with Gibson The storm swirling around someNewTestamentaccounts and argue over just how Jews "ThePassion"intensifiedwhen turned Jesus over to the Ro- should deal with Christian the ADLconvened nine Jesus man leader Pontius Pilate portrayals of the Jesusstory in scholars, most of them Catho- upon the Jews' urging. popular culture, lics, who reviewed an initial Such a story line will "have The internal conflict over screenplay of the movie this significant potential to incite the Gibson movie, meanwhile, spring, hostility to Jews and Judaism," comes amid Jewish disagree- The panel declared that it he said. ment over the release of yet was"neitheratruerenditionof The Second Vatican Coun- another movie about Jesus, the Gospel stories nor a his- cil of 1964 reversed centuries "The Gospel of John," which torically accurate account of of official church policy col- some Jews are calling a more what could have happened in iectively blaming the Jews for sensitive portrayal of events. Jerusalem, on Passover," when Jesus' crucifixion. On one side are figures such Pilatewasprefectand Caiaphas "What happened in His pas- asAbraham Foxman, national was the Jewish high priest, sioncannotbechargedagainst director of the Anti-Defama- Gibson's Icon Productions all Jews withoutdistinction to tion League, and RabbiMarvin then charged that the histori- those then alive nor against II Residential & Commercial Pool Decks & Enclosures Windows, Awnings Roofs, Walkways Remove Mildew, Rust, Dirt I m|m||mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm| I I I I I I I I I I III I I I I I I I I I I lllIllllllllI ~ervalidtilll~31~31Jmitedto50~et Exterior Build Beautification 0 the Jews of today," the Vatican said in its historic document, Nostra Aetate. Since then, many interfaith efforts have begun, and the current pope, John Paul II, has gone further, apologizing for church silence during the Holocaust and urging Catho- lic leaders to forge ties with Jews. In recent weeks, two Vatican officials have praised the film, and one urged all cardinals and bishops to see it. But Cardinal Walter Kasper, the pope's top liaison to the Jewish community, said these were "purely personal" views that did not reflect Rome's of- ficial stance of waiting for the film's release to review it and of promoting reconciliation with Jews. Among those attempting to meet with Gibson is Rabbi A. James Rudin, senior interreli- gious affairs adviser for the American Jewish Committee and a veteran of interfaith dia- logue. Rudin, one of a handful of Jewish officials who has seen the film, said the film's depic- tion of the events surround- ing Jesus' death are histori- cally inaccurate. For example, he said, the film overstates the authority the high Jewish priest Caiaphas held and made the Roman leader Pontius Pilate seem like a weak Hamlet figure. Further, the film included "toxic" images of "conniving bloodthirsty Jews who used Roman power" to carry out the crucifixion, he said. He said Soroka's remarks are "very important" because he remains the first Catholic religious leader "who has spo- ken out so clearly in pointing out some of the flaws" of the film. Rudin said the movie he watched is a celluloid update of the once- notorious Ger- man passion play from the town of Oberammergau, which, starting in the 15th century, ignited crusades against Jews. Hitler urged people to read or watch the play for its depiction "of the face of international Jewry." But that play began in recent years to be revised after Vatican calls for Catholic-Jewish rap- prochement. "The Passion" also seemed inspired by "stigmata," or vi- sions, of the 19th century nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich,million from Christian groupS who blamed Jews for the cru- for Israel, and more than $100 cifixion for all eternity, Rudin million for Israel and Jewish said. causes in the last decade. Gibson himselfadmires the Meanwhile, some of the nun, according to a New sameJewishplayershadadif" Yorker account, and a Web ferent take on another new sitebyfilmfanslistsherasone Jesus movie. inspiration. The recently released film, Rabbi David Rosen, senior "The Gospel of John," a lit- rabbiat Houston's Congrega- eral, word-for- word transla" tion BethYeshurun, the larg- tion of that New Testament estConservativesynagoguein story, has the backing of a the United States, said the film Canadian group that includes left him "disturbed" after a several Jews, among the~ screening in Houston. Garth Drabinsky, a producer, "The film is almost and Sandy Pearl, the execU" unwatchable in its portrayal tive producer. of Roman brutality, but you Foxman pointed to "The areneverallowedtoforgetthat Gospel of John" as a "sensi" the brutality could have tive" treatment of the JesUS stoppedatanypointifthehigh story, in apparent contrastt priest had just said enough," Gibson's film. said Rosen. The new movie portrays the Rosen believes Jewish and Jewish leadership of the time Christian leaders should be- as facing "a very difficult di" gin meeting to prepare study lemma" by being caught be" guides to deal with issues the tween the "necessity of keeP" film raises, ing the peace with the I~o, While it will unlikely spur man authorities and "sorne~ newanti-Semitism, themovie body who seems dange .rouS "will confuse people about the to Rome, said Alan Segal, a role of Jews in the film and professorofreligionandJeW," how they are portrayed in the ish studies at Barnard Col- Gospels," he said. lege in New York and a con" For his part, Foxman, who sultant to the movie. has not seen the movie, said Further, he said, it he hoped to convince Gibson downplays the violence sut~ to film a spot to tack onto the rounding the crucifixion a~d, end of his Jesus movie saying relies on a word-for-WOrd "Some out there believe Jews translation ofthestory, rathe! are guilty of his suffering-- than adapting the story to= but don't believe that." Oth- dramatic scriptas GibsonhaS ers, such as Medved, contend done. the Jewish community should Still, Segal said Jews,an'.t steer clear of Gibson's movie, avoid being concerned wi~ Were some film producers what the Gospel says, es~" planning an adaptation of the cially the Gospel of John."'~/e Book of Esther--which are portrayed as the villain~, Medved said is the case--Jews the question is, what do you should certainly weigh in. do to not make it a blank.et "But it's a terrible position condemnation?" Segal said;~ for us to claim how to tell But Medved said the AP~.~ Christians what to believe." praise of the lesser-knOW=J Eckstein also maintains that Jesus film showed the ,'tre" it's not Jews but Christians mendous hypocrisy" of JeV:" whose reactions to the film ish organizations " S in "111~ remain most relevant. While the credit. "I would want to know: Gospel of John" were la 1 ~ WhatdothoseChristianswho with Jewish names, MedVcU devotedthelastthreedecades said, Gibson "made the ~i~d~" to interfaith relations, what take of not inviting that.k~n, aretheirkishkestellingthem, of Jewish participatlO". rather than Abe Foxman's dismissed Foxman, however, .~ ~ view," he said, using the Yid- Medved's criticism. He,~,'~lm dish word for guts. the ADL's assessment of '!.~ Foxman said Eckstein has Gospel of John" had noth![J,a "spent a lifetime" building to do with its Jewish cred~ ,~ I, Ir" Christian- Jewish ties and he We don't look at ~kot "has a lot at stake in the rela- names," he said, noting u,~ tionship." Eckstein admits he didn't even know that is true: In the past year were JewsassociatedwitbU~ his group helped raise $20 film. Jewish Pavilion Book Club ,h SANDY OSER (i) helps BESSIE SCHWARTZ (center) celebrate her birthday a~ ~. Jewish Pavilion. Oser is a volunteer who leads a "Jewish Book Club" grouP~Oy Monday which is sponsored by The Jewish Pavilion Outreach Program. ~D~- CHAPNICK (r) is a regular book club participant.