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March 05, 2004 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-03-05

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`The Passion' Revisited

Local reaction to Gibson's film varies among Jews and Christians.

she said she hadn't thought of that.
But there is a point to all the suf-
Staff Writer
fering, she said, "Christ is not asking
us to do anything that he hasn't done
uietly, the audience drifted
himself. The film is a reminder of the
into the theater. Ash
violence and brutality that Christ
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 3:30
paid out of deep love for us and for
p.m. — the first day the
our salvation."
public is invited to see Mel
When asked if she saw anti-Jewish
Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
attitudes in the film, she said, "I real-
Four days later, the New York Times
ly don't see anything like that."
reported that the film already made
But former nun Jane Schaberg of
$117.5 million. Though some front
Detroit, a professor of religious stud-
rows went empty at this showing, later
ies at the University of Detroit, dis-
theater-goers waited 90 minutes for
agreed. She felt strongly that the film
tickets.
was anti-Semitic.
About 15 Jewish community mem-
"There will be anti-Semitic results
bers, invited by the American Jewish
in its subliminal messages," she. said.
Committee's Detroit area chapter, met
"I see so much of it in my classroom.
to see the film and discuss it afterwards.
It's difficult for Christians to recog-
A few rows in front of them, 20 mem-
nize anti-Semitism. They don't see it
Meeting at the Midtown Cafe to discuss Gibson's film are Sharona Shapiro, local AJC
bers — including two nuns — of Our
in their attitudes or prayers [when it's
executive director; Sheri Schiff of Birmingham; Brenda Rosenberg of Bloomfield Hills;
Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in
there]," said Schaberg-, who learned
Ruth Beitner, AJC assistant director; and Jerry Rosenfeld of Southfield. .
Orchard Lake, also gathered.
her father was Jewish a decade ago.
After talking to members of each
"People have to be edu c ated about it
group afterward, it seemed like they
But Howard Rosenberg of Bloomfield Hills felt the
just like they have to be educated about racism."
hadn't seen the same two-hour movie.
Jews were not the target. "The Roman guards were
She added that people must understand that the
Before the credits finished rolling, the Jewish group
doing the beating," he said. "The film was more
gospels are not eyewitness accounts, but written -for
was on the move out of Birmingham's Uptown
about man's inhumanity to man, not about the Jews."
political reasons 35-65 years after the crucifixion. She
Palladium theatre, ready to talk about the film. The
Sala Wanetick of Southfield, 15, the only teen at
said people must learn the political reasons, including
Christian group, on the other hand, deeply
the discussion, agreed.
the way the writers toned down sections on the
moved, was still seated — some holding each
"I think the film shed a bad light
Roman brutality, hoping the ruling Romans would
other, others in tears.
on the Jews, but I don't think it's
accept the young Christian religion.
One of the nuns, who asked her name her
going to cause a big outburst — like
"We have a tremendous need for rethinking and re-
name not be used, said that the film deepened
that 'Jews killed Christ,"' she said. "At
educating people that the crucifixion is not about the
her understanding of what Christ faced. "It's as
Monday night [Hebrew] school, the
Jews," Schaberg said. "That's what the Holocaust
if we didn't know it all until seeing this film,"
rabbi talked about 'You're going to
showed us," she said, noting that some believed then
she said. But she was so shaken that she had to
face trouble [because of the film],' but
that the Jews were being eternally punished for cruci-
continue the conversation over the phone sever-
I'm sure I'm not going to," said
fying Christ.
Wanetick, a sophomore at Groves
al days later.
Yet, with all the articles and reviews that find the
At Birmingham's Midtown Cafe,rhe discus-
High School in Beverly Hills.
Gibson film offensive, many still flock to see it.
sion among the Jewish group was under way.
Wan etick
She said she's talked to non-Jewish
Sharona Shapiro, executive director of the local
"No question — the film is anti-Semitic,"
students who said they liked the
AJC, attributes the film's popularity to people seeking
said John Kovacs of Bloomfield Hills.
movie and didn't think it was anti-
a sacred haven amid the terrorist threats and media
Sheri Schiff of Birmingham and an. AJC "-
Semitic.
warnings since Sept. 11.
board member, agreed. "It's not an accurate
"They're looking for a validation that their faith
portrayal of anything I've ever read about the
will
lead them to a good future," Shapiro said.
Nun's Perspective
Passion," she said. "It's the gospel according to
Hopefully, a good future includes engaging people
Mel."
"It wasn't the Jewish people who
of different faiths, which may be one positive out-
She explained Gibson's reversal of the power
caused Jesus' death, but all of us," said
come of this film, she said.
relationship. He made Pontius Pilate — histori-
the nun from Our Lady of Refuge.
"As Pilate said in the film, 'We have very different
cally known to be so brutal that Rome recalled
When asked about the particular
truths,"' said Brenda Rosenberg of Bloomfield Hills,
Scha
berg
him because of his brutality — look sympa-
brutality of the film, the nun said that
local AJC's chair of interreligious affairs, who was also
thetic and passive, while the Jewish leader,
it caused a tremendous personal reaction. "It was an
at the cafe discussion. •
Caiaphas, is made to look powerful enough to push
unforgettable encounter in my life," she said. "It was
After seeing the movie, she said, her conversations
for the crucifixion of Jesus. Historically, Schiff said,
like I was there while the crucifixion happened."
with her Christian friends have given her a better
Caiaphas doesn't have that power.
She said, however, that she had not seen violent
understanding of what Christ means to them. "And
Her concern is that when people who don't know
films before. So when asked if perhaps she was react-
they now have an understanding of my sensitivity as a
Jews see this film, it would reinforce dangerous
ing to the violence itself as well as the story of Christ,
Jew to the Passion play," she said.
stereotypes.

SHARON LUCKERMAN

Cli

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3/5

2004

18

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