US-based anti-hate group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned Thursday a new video produced by Christian missionary group Jews for Jesus, which uses Holocaust imagery to encourage Jews to convert, as "a cynical abuse of the Holocaust for proselytizing."
The video, which portrays Jesus as being among those in the selection line at what appears to be the entrance to the infamous Auschwitz death camp, first appeared about one week ago and has already garnered more than one million views on YouTube.
"Jesus" is shown carrying a cross as a Nazi officer standing at the gates of the camp sends him "to the left", and into the gas chambers.
The video's tagline is "That Jew died for you," and is being seen as a step too far even for Jews for Jesus, a group already infamous for its provocative activities and attempts to lure Jews into leaving their religion.
"The Jews for Jesus video is a cynical abuse of the Holocaust for purposes of proselytizing," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and himself a Holocaust survivor. "It is deeply offensive not only to Jews who lost family members in the Holocaust, but also to Christians who would not want to see images of Jesus used for propaganda or shock value."
"Jews for Jesus has taken their abuse of Holocaust imagery to a new low," he continued, branding it "an outrageous cheapening of the tragedy of the six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust for the purpose of gaining attention to the Jews for Jesus missionary cause, which is to convert Jews to the belief that Jesus is their messiah."
This is not the first time Jews for Jesus has attempted to utilize Holocaust imagery in this way.
In 2001, the missionary group was slammed by ADL for an ad which appeared in national magazines in the US - including Newsweek, Time and Rolling Stone - which featured an elderly woman saying: "Before you dismiss my belief, you should hear my story."
"Some say you can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus. I disagree. But before you dismiss my belief, you should know that in addition to being Jewish, I’m also a Holocaust Survivor… All I ask is that you hear my story and those of several other remarkable Jews who have suffered greatly and now truly believe in Jesus."
At the time, Foxman accused the group of attempting to "distort Jewish identity as part of their deceptive and offensive campaign to impose Christian beliefs on Jews."
"By emphasizing the Holocaust, Jews for Jesus is using the darkest chapter in the history of Judaism – the persecution and annihilation of European Jews – to attempt to mislead survivors and their children about their history and faith. It is impossible for a person who is Jewish to worship Jesus Christ. That is the fundamental distinction that sets these faith systems apart."
Jews For Jesus is a Christian missionary group which promotes the idea that it is possible to be Jewish at the same time as accepting Christian doctrines. It is part of a wider phenomenon sometimes known as "Messianic Judaism", in which efforts to convert Jews are disguised through the use of Jewish symbols.
Such groups are universally rejected by mainstream Jewish groups and denominations.