Sudden Passing Of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein; Raised $1.5 BILLION For Israel

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Rabbi Yechiel Zvi Eckstein, the Founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) passed away suddenly on Wednesday afternokn. He was 67 years old and died of a massive heart attack in his home in Jerusalem.

Eckstein was a highly influential person, raising donations of more than $1.5 Billion for Israel since founding the Fellowship in 1983 – the majority from Evangelical Christians around the world.

He was born in Montreal, Canada in 1951 and received his Smicha from Yeshiva University in New York. He received a doctorate from Columbia University.

Eckstein said his decades of efforts helped make support for Israel a top priority in the evangelical world.

“After 2,000 years of oppression and persecution, today you have Christians who are helping Jews,” he told The Associated Press last year. “This is an amazing thing.”

In addition to his philanthropic work with the Fellowship, Eckstein was also on the Board of Governors of the Joint Distribution Committee, Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Agency. He was a prolific author and had written seven books, mainly on Jewish-Christian relations.

As of 2010, Eckstein hosted a radio program that broadcast weekly segments about Israel and Judeo-Christian relations. The program was picked up and broadcast in English and Spanish in more than ten countries on three continents.

Eckstein became a well-known figure in Israel, funding projects for children, new immigrants, Holocaust survivors, orphans, the elderly and victims of Palestinian violence. His group also assisted distressed Jewish communities in places like Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union.

His face frequently appeared in large posters promoting his work, and his voice, instantly recognizable for its thick American accent, was often heard in radio advertisements.

At times, Eckstein drew criticism from some quarters. Liberal American Jews sometimes objected to his ties with the conservative Christian right and his group’s activities in West Bank settlements. In Israel, some saw the reliance on foreign Christian groups for financial assistance as inappropriate.

The late Posek HaDor, HaGaon HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ZATZAL, ruled in 2009 that taking donations from IFCJ was forbidden since Christianity is a form of idolatry and thus aggrandizing Christians who give to Jewish charities was itself “close to idolatry.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “deep sorrow” over Eckstein’s passing, saying he “worked tirelessly to benefit the citizens of Israel and to strengthen the bond between Christian communities and the State of Israel.”

Singer Pat Boone called Eckstein’s death “a tremendous and personal shock to me,” saying he had worked with the rabbi over the years to raise money from Christians for the support of Israel.

“I will always consider my friendship and cooperative work with Yechiel Eckstein one of the most important facts of my life on this earth — and I hope to rejoice with him in Heaven, the ultimate Promised Land,” Boone said in a statement.

Eckstein is survived by his wife, Joelle, three daughters and eight grandchildren, according to his group’s website.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews responded to the news of Eckstein’s death and said:

“We are in complete shock and dismay. It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Founder and President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. Rabbi Eckstein passed away after he suffered a heart attack in his home in Jerusalem. Ever since his ordination under the tutelage of Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Rabbi Eckstein dedicated his life to the strengthening of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

His life’s work and legacy, the Fellowship, has assisted the most in needy segments of Israeli society and the Jewish people across the globe over the past few decades. Millions of people, who the Fellowship assisted, owe their thanks to the work of Rabbi Eckstein. His continuing legacy was the building of bridges between Evangelical Christian communities and he state of Israel.

The staff of the Fellowship as well as those who knew Rabbi Eckstein personally bow their heads in sadness and mourning following his passing. We at the Fellowship, are determined to continue his work in assisting the State and people of Israel.

We send our fondest regards and deepest condolences to his wife, daughters, mother, and grandchildren. May his memory serve to guide and be a blessing for us all.”

(AP / YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)




10 COMMENTS

  1. People have to get over their phobia about Natzrus. Yes, it’s avoda zara. That doesn’t make its believers bad people. They believe in their god the same way we believe lehavdil in ours, with an emes, and how are they to know they’re wrong and we’re right? Most American notzrim, especially those who take it seriously such as Evangelicals, love us because they believe in the posuk ואברכה מברכך and they want that brocho.

    Yes, they want to convert us; of course they do, as they must, because they love us and don’t want us to go to Hell (a place we don’t believe in, but their bible tells them it exists and all unbelievers must inevitably go there). A notzri who doesn’t want us to convert either doesn’t really believe, or else hates us and wants us to go to Hell, הלעיטהו לרשע וימות so to speak. So yes, out of love they want to convert us. So what? Why does this mean we have to shun them? They’re no different than a crazy aunt who is convinced we have a terrible disease and need to take some poisonous herbal “remedy” to cure it; we don’t shun her, we love her dearly and are careful not to eat anything she was able to tamper with. When notzriim show us love we should love them back, accept their donations graciously, and never let them talk to our children without close supervision.

    Rabbi Eckstein was a tzadik who helped hundreds of thousands of yidden. When he appears before the Beis Din shel Maala he will have millions of mal’ochim to testify for him, while against him will stand only those who are burning with envy and found an excuse to criticize him so they can feel better about themselves. Zechuso yogein oleinu.

  2. his wife is a tzadeket she flies often to Russian and hands out food with her own hands and blankets to elderly of Holocaust survivors may Hashems bless this family.

  3. This man was not a tzaddik! many gedolim came out very very strongly against him! His cooperation with Christians and evangelicals was shameful! This new report of his death belongs on Forward. not on a website called YESHIVAWORLD!

  4. Milhouse, return your semicha and leave paskening to those who have knowledge and competency. evangelical Christians are NOT OVDEI AVODAH ZARAH. PERHAPS CATHOLICS are, but not protestant sects.

  5. Mr. Milhouse: It is forbidden (per the Sheva Mitzvos) for gentiles to believe/worship Avoda Zora. Once you conceded it is Avoda Zora, that is the end of the discussion. It is a capital crime for any nochri to engage in said Avoda Zora.

    All the above is true just regarding they themselves and their beliefs/worshiping, without them doing anything else. But their attempting to R”L convert Yidden to their A”Z makes it many magnitudes worse.

    Bottom Line: You are wrong to be kind to those subscribing to that religion. Anyone assisting those in their capacity in that religion or speaking/working hand in hand with them, has a lot to answer for.

  6. Milhouse: In addition to my previous comment, let it be known that those who spoke out against him, both laymen and gedolei yisroel, do so and did so out of conviction of the terrible wrongheadedness of his actions and pronouncements. And not due to even one iota of envy or otherwise seeking to knock anyone for anything other than pure l’sheim shamayim.

  7. Milhouse if you want to see true tzadik then you better checkout the Tenak Talk YouTube channel where tzadikim debunk the claims of the missionaries one episode at a time.

  8. Two things: Rabbi Eckstein worked tirelessly to help Holocaust survivors in the former Soviet Union and Israel. I don’t see his critics stepping up to offer to give the same help! He also helped many Chareidi groups, including Colel Chabad!
    He never, chas v’shalom, endorsed the religious aspects of Christianity; rather, he encouraged Christians to help Jews.
    As for Christianity and avodah zarah, the consensus is that for non-Jews, a trinity is not avodah zarah. Shutafus for a non-Jew is not avodah zarah. (For Jews, it is avodah zarah and is yehareig v’al ya’avor.)