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German passion play lauded by New York archbishop as more balanced

Germany's Passion Play at Oberammergau – an event which only takes place every 10 years – was recently lauded by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Rabbi Gary Greenebaum as more balanced and less prone to what has been viewed as anti-Semitic stereotypes in the past.

Both the New York prelate and rabbi watched the play, which runs from May 15 to October 3, last Thursday in the Bavarian village where it has been performed for more than 400 years.

The Passion Play, considered to be one of the most famous in the world, supposedly began in the 1600s to thank God for preventing Oberammergau from undergoing the Black Plague. Held every 10 years, the event is performed by some 2,500 people, around half of the town's population.

In separate phone interviews, the two religious leaders told the Associated Press (AP) that this year's performance was more sensitive in avoiding what has been viewed as anti-Jewish stereotypes in past events.

“I have always been sensitive to Jewish concerns that the play could perpetuate the ancient and tragically unjust misunderstanding that the Jews are responsible for the killing of Jesus,” Dolan told the AP.

“But thanks to the courage of the directors, the villagers and the Jewish leaders,” he added, “the script has gradually been renewed.”

Rabbi Greenebaum, who heads the American Jewish Committee, agreed and said that Jewish groups had worked with the producers of the Oberammergau Passion Play since the 1970s. He lauded the 2010 version of the play, calling it “more balanced than ever before” and adding that “we need to appreciate the tremendous efforts that have gone into it.”

The play's director, Christian Stueckl, who has now led three of the performances, told the AP in May that wanted to emphasize Christ's Jewish roots in this year's production.

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