Over a million people have already seen the film clip of Jesus walking to his death at Auschwitz produced by Jews for Jesus. Jewish people in particular are showing great interest in the new short film, which is now being reported on in Israel’s mainstream media.
According to Susan Perlman, the Director of Communications for Jews for Jesus, the film is getting more than 100,000 views a day. “This is way beyond our expectations,” says Perlman.
“We wanted to start a conversation about Jesus,” says Perlman, one of the founders of the Jews for Jesus organization, where she has served since 1972. “We felt it was time to address the negative idea that believing in Jesus is not a Jewish thing to do,” she told Israel Today.
Portraying Jesus walking into Auschwitz carrying a huge cross on his shoulder has certainly sparked a conversation in Israel. “We decided to use the well-known iconic image of Jesus dragging his cross. We wanted people to clearly recognize Jesus in the film,” says Perlman. Some Israeli newspapers are headlining their stories with a quote from the Jewish website “Forward” calling the film “the most tasteless YouTube video ever.”
The crucifixion of Christ has never been easy for Jewish eyes, certainly not in the context of the Holocaust. “Jesus has often been wrongly associated with the perpetrators of the Holocaust,” says Perlman. “In reality, he is to be identified with the victims. As a Jew, Jesus may well have suffered the same fate of the six million who perished in the concentration camps,” she says.
It is true that if Jesus had been in Auschwitz, he would have died a nameless victim with a number on his arm. Attempting to understand faith in God or in Jesus after the Holocaust is admirable and sobering. But watching Jesus carry his cross into Auschwitz looking like the same Christ figure so often blamed for the Holocaust may prove too much for Jewish people.
“We expected this kind of reaction to the film,” says Perlman when asked about the multitude of negative reactions to the film from the Jewish community. “We are trying to stimulate a conversation over a difficult issue,” she explains. Some Messianic Jewish groups in Israel are concerned that the Jews for Jesus strategy may backfire and further alienate Jews from Jesus.
Jews for Jesus is an organization whose mission statement is “to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.”
The film was directed by Herb Kossover, a well-known Messianic Jewish Hollywood film maker, according to Perlman, and can be viewed in twelve different languages including Hebrew, Russian, Polish and German. “We contacted the German Director of Jews for Jesus who watched the film and told us that he agrees that we go ahead with the project,” notes Perlman.
“In order to generate Jewish interest in the film its release coincided with Passover and Holocaust Remembrance Day,” says Perlman.