Jewish critics accused of ‘deceit’ at film screening
Jan. 31, 2004
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Monday February 2, 2004
A group of evangelical pastors who screened Mel Gibson’s movie on the crucifixion of Jesus blasted Jewish critics who used a fake church name to sneak into an advance screening of the film, The Passion of the Christ.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he viewed the film “in stealth mode” at the Global Pastors Network conference in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 21.
Foxman and Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, the league’s interfaith consultant, registered as pastors with the fictitious Church of Truth in Brooklyn, N.Y. Foxman said the film’s portrayal of Jews was “painful to watch.”
Foxman has warned that the film threatens to stir up anti-Semitism by blaming Jews for the death of Jesus. Gibson, who has hosted invitation-only screenings around the country, has refused to show the film to Foxman.
John Maxwell, chairman of the Global Pastors Network, which sponsored the convention, said, “I am disappointed they lied to get in,” and accused Foxman and Bretton-Granatoor of “deceit.”
Before seeing the film, participants were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement that stipulated they could speak only positively of the movie. Foxman did not sign the statement.
Foxman said he had no choice but to lie. “I am sorry we had to engage in stealth tactics, but only because he [Gibson] forced us to,” he told The Orlando Sentinel. Foxman told The New York Times he initially felt bad about sneaking in, but then changed his mind.
“I decided yesterday, ‘Why am I uncomfortable? Let him [Gibson] be uncomfortable.’ For him to say, ‘You can only see it if you love it’? I felt it was my moral duty to see it,” he said.
Other Jewish leaders who saw the film two weeks ago said they went in openly. David Elcott, interfaith director for the American Jewish Committee, saw the film near Chicago and said he was “completely upfront” about his affiliation and was welcomed warmly.
Rabbi A. James Rudin, the AJC’s senior interreligious affairs adviser, saw the film at the Orlando screening by paying the $195 registration fee. Rudin, who accurately listed his affiliation as a visiting professor at St. Leo University, also did not sign the agreement.
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