Is your Passion Play Anti-Semitic?

Two men in black drag Jesus to the cross while a crowd watches. Two other men are on crosses on either side of him during the Stafford Passion Play.

You may be aware of the dreadful history of anti-semitism which has tainted the performance of some Passion Plays in the past, particularly the Oberammergau Passion Play which was personally recommended by Hitler.

Today there are many misunderstandings about Passion Plays and sadly, a recent article in the Jewish Chronicle claimed that Passion Plays bring Christian antisemitism to Trafalgar Square

We wrote to the editor of the newspaper to engage in dialogue about this because our vision is to see more Passion Plays across the UK and we would not support Passion Plays if they were antisemitic. The Passion Trust condemns antisemitism and we work with our Jewish friends to gather feedback and ensure against antisemitism.

How do you know if your Passion Play is antisemitic? How do you know if your Jewish friends feel welcome at your Passion Play? We have advice and feedback on our website to help you make sure your Passion Play does not inadvertently reflect any of the past antisemitic approaches in the re-telling of the Gospel story.

If you are interested in finding out more about the history of antisemitism in Passion Plays, you can see our statement below and on our website.

If you are putting on a Passion Play and want to make sure your Jewish friends feel welcome, you can see resources and advice on our website here.


Against Antisemitism in Passion Plays

The Passion Trust encourages people who watch the plays to understand the complex history of the Easter story in which all the key people are Jewish (the good and the bad) and where both Jewish and Roman leaders called for the death of Jesus. 

Interestingly, Jesus was very popular among large crowds of Jewish people who did not want him to die, but he was perceived as a threat by a minority of people who were the leaders of the Jewish community under Roman occupation.

The Passion Trust supports many modern-dress productions where the people who scheme against Jesus are dressed in contemporary army fatigues or clerical robes – to show that Jesus’ words and actions are still a threat to leaders who like to have control and reward in this life without considering the reality of life after death. 

Accusations of antisemitism do not fully capture the complexity of the historical context nor the reality of contemporary retellings of the Easter story by Christians who have nothing but goodwill towards their Jewish friends.


Statement on Antisemitism in Passion Plays

Passion Plays in the UK were banned from the end of the sixteenth century until their revival in 1951. Now, with Passion Plays undergoing a resurgence in the UK, we actively work against any notion of antisemitism people might bring to these plays, whether they are acting in them or watching them.

There has been a long and damaging history of antisemitism in Europe between the sixteenth and the twentieth century. The medieval teachings of the Catholic Church, which blamed Jewish people for the death of Christ, has tainted many Passion Plays in the past.

Some Passion Plays have had a long history of antisemitism, especially performances of the Oberammergau Passion Play in Nazi Germany, which were praised by Hitler.1

The Passion Trust actively condemns any form of antisemitism in Passion Plays that take place in the UK and we work with our Jewish friends to seek understanding and reconciliation in all aspects of the rehearsal and production of contemporary Passion Plays.

As one member of the Passion Trust put it, ‘how do we make our Jewish friends feel welcome?’

The resources we have put together here help us to remember to stay close to the Biblical account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is clear in the Gospel accounts that Jesus was himself Jewish, and that his family, friends and supporters were Jewish.2

Furthermore, the first people to hear his words and teachings were Jewish. There were many social, political and religious reasons given for the fact that some Jewish people, as well as some Roman people, wanted Jesus to die.3

Passion Plays that are sensitive to these contexts will be aware of the history that dangerously maligns Jewish people and will stay true to Biblical accounts, not historical injustices.



1 The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League have worked with the Oberammergau play over many years and have produced some important resources which can be found at

2 ‘Blog’ Zondervan Academic, See also the online course ‘Four Portraits. One Jesus.’ by author and teacher Mark Strauss.

3 Kessler, Ed. ‘The Pasion’ from a Jewish Perspective, BBC,

Is fundraising like online dating?

Online dating is trying to find the right match among many differnet people. Fundraising for Passion Plays is similar to online dating in one respect: trying to find the right match for your Play among different trusts and funding charities. Finding this perfect match is the key to raising funds to tell the Easter story!

Once you find trusts and funders who are of a similar mindset and value the things you value, you are well on the way to a perfect match.


How do we find potential funders?

The Charity Commission’s Register of Charities allows you to search for free by using filters to narrow your search. (Remember, Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate registers.)
Funding Central is another register that is free to access.
For a more expensive option, you can try the Directory of Social Change’s Funds Online website which is regularly updated.
Since Passion Plays bring many churches of all denominations together, your diocese can be a good source of information and signposting. For example, see the Diocese of Bristol and their list of funders here.
The Christian Funders’ Forum is also a useful source.


How do we let funders know our project is a good match for them?

Now is the time to do some research and really think about compatibility with the funders you are researching.

You can research their online content, websites, and also Further information will be inread through their annual reports published on the Charity Commissions website (click ‘Documents’ tab). These annual reports will give useful imformation about projects they have previously funded.

A quick phone call can also be helpful in establishing contact and goodwill as you will be able to find out more about them and let them know what you do.

Remember here that one of the key elements is timing! Some funders have a set application process that requires you to apply before a deadline. Other funders have trustees’ meetings at set times during the year and those times are good to work with.

The timing of your project also matters. Some funders like to fund projects in the early stage of development, while others like to give funding when they see other funders have already contributed.

There is a lot to think about with fundraising! But Passion Plays are such unique projects that it can also be an enjoyable process. Many funders like to hear about large community arts events that tell the Easter story in fresh and inspiring ways. Not only do Passion Plays have large outdoor audiences across the UK each Easter, they are also unique spaces of community, skill-sharing, mentoring and investing in the lives of volunteers across all sections of society. They are more than a one-off performance and the impact spreads across the whole community for many months.


Where can I find more help with fundraising?

If you want more help with fundraising, we have plenty more tips and advice on our website here.

We have recorded sessions from previous Passion Trust Conferences including sessions looking at Finance & Fundraising, Administration and Practical Considerations, and Q&A sessions. You can see more information and watch short helpful videos on our website here.

You can also find lots of helpful tips and advice at The Benefact Trust here or click on the image below.

three bullet points with rows of text and images in blue bubbles with white icons for help with fundraising


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