As a community member invited to attend last week’s keynote speech for Holocaust Memorial Week, I was heartened to hear an audience member ask survivor Stephen Nassar, “what do you think is the cause of Jewish persecution over so many centuries?” He answered saying that the commonly held belief that “the Jews killed Jesus” was as the heart of this hatred. He also alluded to the painting of “The Last Supper” as a source for this false narrative.
My guess is that this information was a bit too sketchy for most people to understand. I will try to summarize, below.
Jesus fought corruption in all forms. He fought corruption in the administration of the Jewish temple and he fought the Roman occupiers who had total control of Palestine and the lives of its population. The Romans feared Jesus’ political advocacy against their occupation and trumped up charges against him so that he could be silenced. The Romans tried, convicted, and crucified him.
Jesus chose to spend his last night on earth celebrating Passover—the annual Jewish remembrance of the Jews having once been slaves in Egypt. The message of Passover is that we (Jews) will never be truly free until everyone is free.
Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper, depicts Jesus having his last meal. It is at the core of the “fake news” that “the Jews killed Jesus.” How many of you, who are not Jewish, know that Jesus chose to spend his last night on earth celebrating a Jewish holiday? Do you see the Passover being celebrated in the Last Supper? How many of you in your religious education discussed Christ’s celebration of the Passover? How many times, in comparison, have you heard that “the Jews killed Jesus?”
This is what Stephen Nassar was talking about.