'That Jew died for you,' a video produced by Jews for Jesus has gained over one million YouTube hits, and garnered plenty of controversy along the way.
The three-minute video released ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 28 starts off with images that are familiar to anyone who's seen a Holocaust movie: the tightly packed railway car, the frightened Jews with Jewish stars pinned to their clothes stumbling off the train, the forced march and the shouts in German.
Jesus makes his first, relatively subtle appearance as a long-haired young woman stumbles and is helped up by someone in a white robe under the glinting sun. As the Jews stand in the selection line at the entrance to what appears to be Auschwitz, with the sign "Arbeit macht frei" clearly visible in the background, two Nazi officers discuss whether each Jew will be sent to the labor camp or the gas chamber.
At one point, the younger one says: "Let me choose," and selects the next in line for the so-called "showers." The English subtitle shows that he says in German "Just another Jew" as the soaring music of movie climaxes plays to a long-haired Jesus dragging a huge wooden cross behind him as a Nazi officer jabs him on the way to the gas chamber. "That Jew died for you," the video announces in large letters.
Jews for Jesus is an organization whose mission statement is "to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide." They employ some 200 people, according to a report in Christian Today, and say that the idea behind the video is to "help redefine the conversation and reshape views of Jesus."
"With recent anti-Semitic events in Kansas City and Ukraine, our YouTube video 'That Jew Died For You' is needed more than ever because it offers a message of hope in times of despair," Christian Today cited their executive director David Brickner as saying.
"While our video focuses on the Holocaust, anti-Semitism needs to be challenged everywhere. Only Jesus the Jewish Messiah can replace the fear and anxiety in our hearts with a peace from God that passes all understanding, because He Himself is the Prince of Peace. That Jew, Jesus the Messiah, died for all of us, so that we may live," he was cited as saying.
The clip has sparked controversy. Jay Michaelson on The Forward deemed it "the most tasteless YouTube video ever."
"It's hard to fathom who thought this project would be a good idea. Any Jew with personal, familial, or even historical memories of the Holocaust will immediately find it to be an outrage. Not to state the obvious, but it desecrates the memory of six million Jews to use their suffering as a way to convert Jews to Christianity."
On Gawker, Adam Weinstein wrote that the video tries "to convert Hebrews in apparently the most off-putting way possible."
A blogger called Dror from an online collective of Messianic Jews, meanwhile, said the clip is "rather insensitively named" but added that "God understands the horrors of Auschwitz, because of His own death and his active and willing participation in receiving suffering," Christian Today reported.
Amid the controversy, Fox News and the History Channel refused to play an ad for the video, according to the report.
Still, Jews for Jesus defends the video. "The Holocaust has been used – perhaps more than any other event or topic – to prevent Jewish people from considering the good news of Jesus," Christian Today cited the organization as saying on its website.
"Challenging this misunderstanding must involve changing the focus of the conversation about Jesus and the Holocaust within the Jewish community."
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