'That Jew died for you' – controversial video hits one million views but is deemed 'offensive' by Jewish community
A video produced by Jews for Jesus that shows Jesus being sentenced to death at a Nazi concentration camp has been generating controversy across the internet.
Entitled 'That Jew died for you', the three minute clip - which has gained over one million hits on YouTube - shows Jewish people arriving at a labour camp and being assigned either to work, or to the "douche" – the gas chamber.
A Jesus-like figure, carrying a cross, is then shown at the front of the line and is sentenced to the showers as a Nazi spits out the words "Just another Jew" with an eerie smile.
Jews for Jesus, which employs around 200 people and is committed to sharing the Gospel with Jewish people around the world, says the purpose of 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," explains executive director David Brickner.
"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."
Associate executive director Susan Perlman told the Christian Post: "We want Jewish people to understand that the sufferings inflicted at the hands of the Nazi's were in no way based on the teachings of Jesus. In fact, he suffered and died on our behalf to show us the love of God.
"While the Holocaust evokes dark despair, we want Jewish people to know that God still has a message of hope."
However, the video has already sparked controversy, with some Jews labelling it as "insensitive" and even "offensive".
Blogger Jay Michaelson deems it "the most tasteless YouTube video ever".
"It's hard to fathom who thought this project would be a good idea," he writes. "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.
"The film is an insensitive, blundering effort to leverage Jewish tragedy into Jewish converts. Ironically, it is so offensive that I think it could be used to keep Jews Jewish," he adds.
Adam Weinstein of New York blogging site Gawker agrees. He lambasted Jews for Jesus for attempting "to convert Hebrews in apparently the most off-putting way possible".
Labelling the short video as "a straight rip-off of Spielbergian Schindler's List", Weinstein also questions the way that Jesus is the only figure not portrayed in black-and-white.
"If he was just another Jew, maybe he shouldn't be colored differently? That's indicative of the sort of tone-deafness that Jews for Jesus in its missionary zeal regularly exhibits toward the group it's targeting for conversion," he argues.
Not everyone has found the video quite as abhorrent, however. A blogger known as Dror, who regularly contributes to the Rosh Pina Project – an online collective of Messianic Jews – says the video is "rather insensitively named" but welcomes the notion that "God understands the horrors of Auschwitz, because of His own death and his active and willing participation in receiving suffering".
"However, JFJ's video is clearly designed to elicit an emotional response, and whilst some may be moved by the concept of Jesus suffering in a concentration camp, it seems to distract from the main message of Yeshua being our atoning sacrifice," he writes.
"There are Holocaust survivors who recognise the cross as a symbol used to persecute them, and just showing Jesus carrying a cross isn't going to magically erase this. So I don't think the video is particularly helpful."
The controversy has spread and two major TV stations – Fox News and the History Channel – have reportedly refused to play a 2-minute advertisement for the clip.
In an FAQ section on its website, Jews for Jesus stands by the video, which has been released ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 28, and reaffirms its desire to open up conversation and transform perceptions about Christ.
"The Holocaust has been used – perhaps more than any other event or topic – to prevent Jewish people from considering the good news of Jesus," Jews for Jesus said.
"Challenging this misunderstanding must involve changing the focus of the conversation about Jesus and the Holocaust within the Jewish community."