Jewish leaders upset at Gibson's 'Passion'

Jan. 23, 2004 at 11:12 AM

NEW YORK, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Two prominent Jewish leaders are upset after viewing Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," supporting previous claims that the film is anti-Semitic.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, said they are bothered by scenes that blame the Jews, rather than the Romans, for Jesus' death, according to Friday's New York Times.

Hier said he was "horrified" by the movie, which he said depicted all Jews, except those who were Jesus' followers, as villainous, with dark beards and eyes "like Rasputin."

Foxman said he was concerned that the film will encourage anti-Semitic feelings.

"Do I think it will trigger pogroms? I don't think it will," Foxman said. "But will it strengthen and legitimize anti-Semitic feelings? Yes, it will."

Alan Nierob, Gibson's spokesman, responded by saying "The filmmakers completely respect these gentlemen's right of freedom of expression, and expect the same in return."

The film is set to be released in 2,000 theaters on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.

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