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 and 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

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

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,

Jesus in a white robe stands with the whole cast and crew of Brighton Passion Play after the free performance on Good Friday.

Further reading about Passion Plays

Here are two book recommendations if you are thinking of...

A blonde-haired woman with glasses and a demin jacket smiles at the camer.

The Passion Trust on UCB2

  Our founding trustee, Alex, was interviewed by Ruth for...