Yechiel Eckstein (July 11, 1951 – February 6, 2019) was an Israeli American rabbi and charity worker who, in 1983, founded a philanthropic organisation for Jews, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (later known as The Fellowship), headquartered in Chicago and Jerusalem, and served as its president. The objectives of the organisation were to support Jews in need of financial help. It promoted emigration of Jews to Israel and supported poor soldiers in the Israeli military. In 2003, it was listed as the second-largest charitable foundation in Israel by Ha'aretz.
Eckstein at IFCJ's 25th anniversary in 2008.
|Born||July 11, 1951|
|Died||February 6, 2019 (aged 67)|
|Nationality||American / Canadian|
|Citizenship||Canadian, American and Israeli|
|Education||Yeshiva University Columbia University|
|Occupation||Rabbi, Founder and President|
|Organization||International Fellowship of Christians and Jews|
|Known for||Founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews|
|Parent(s)||Rabbi Dr. Sy Eckstein Belle Eckstein|
|Awards||Raoul Wallenberg Award|
In 2010 Newsweek magazine listed him in the Top 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America. He was awarded Hadassah's first Man of Distinction in 2010, and the Raoul Wallenberg Award in 2014. He was listed in the "Jerusalem Post's Top 50 Most Influential Jews" of 2014 and 2015.
Early life and educationEdit
Born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, Eckstein was the son of the Rabbi and psychologist Dr. Simon "Sy" Eckstein (1919–2016) and his wife Belle Eckstein (née Hirschman) of Tampa, Florida. In 1952, when he was just a year old, Eckstein moved with his family to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, as his father accepted a newly created rabbinic post as the Chief Rabbi of Ottawa, where he was raised, as his father oversaw four synagogues, two which eventually merged to form Congregation Beth Shalom. He was a graduate of Yeshiva University High School for Boys.
After serving as national co-director of inter-religious affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, Eckstein founded the Holyland Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1983 to help Christians and Jews work together on projects promoting the safety and security of Jews in Israel and around the world. The organization was renamed the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1991. Its first goal is to provide material aid to needy Jewish families and the elderly, for example, by helping them buy food and medicine. A secondary mission is promoting Jewish emigration to Israel. The third is supporting the Israeli military by aiding poor Israeli soldiers.
When Eckstein started the Fellowship, he had no salary, no medical benefits and a pregnant wife. He worked part-time as a rabbi. In the early years, he received the majority of his donations from fellow Jews. Often these gifts were grudgingly given. "I don't know what you're doing, and I don't know if I like what you're doing," one Jewish philanthropist from Chicago said to him, but he nonetheless donated. But from the mid-1990s, he became popular with Evangelical Christians, leading to growth of the charity each year. In December 2003, the I.F.C.J. was listed as the second-largest charitable foundation in the country by Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.
Eckstein is also known for private donations to the Israeli military, through the US-American lobby group "Friends of the IDF".
Personal life and deathEdit
Eckstein held dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel, having become an Israeli citizen in 2002. He had three daughters with his first wife, Bonnie Siegman; the couple subsequently divorced. His daughter Yael Eckstein is the president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Eckstein and his second wife, Joelle (née Medina), lived in Jerusalem.
He recorded six CDs as a Hasidic singer. He was a member of Kol Salonika, The Y'DID Singers and The Rabbis' Sons. In the 1990s Yechiel co-led a band called "Ashira" with Chicago–based band leader Don Cagen.
He died on February 6, 2019, after suffering a cardiac arrest.
In June 2010 he was listed by Newsweek magazine in the Top 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America. In July 2010, Hadassah awarded him its Man of Distinction award. In 2014, he was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Award by the JDC. He was also listed in the "Jerusalem Post's Top 50 Most Influential Jews" of 2014 and 2015.
- Isabel Kershner (February 7, 2019). "Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Dies at 67; Fostered Israeli-Evangelical Ties". New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
- "Life and Legacy of Rabbi Eckstein". icfj.org. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
- "Israeli-American Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein dies at 67". Jerusalem Post. February 7, 2019. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
- "Profiles in Giving", Heartbeat: The American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Spring 2010
- "'The Jerusalem Post's' top 50 most influential Jews of 2014". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
- "Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein". International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
- "Interfaith bridge builder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein dies at 67". Ynetnews. February 6, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
- "Israeli-American Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein dies at 67 – Diaspor". Jerusalem Post. February 6, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
- "About Us". International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
- Sadeh, Shhuki (April 13, 2017). "Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Raises Millions for Israel's Poor. And Don't You Forget It". Haaretz. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
- Chafets, Zev (July 24, 2005). "The Rabbi Who Loved Evangelicals (and Vice Versa)". New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2010.
- Veltzer, Yael (April 11, 2016). "Friends of the IDF gala raises $38 million for soldiers". ynet. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
- "Yael Eckstein". International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
- Kol Salonika (vol. 1) The Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive
- The Y'DID Singers The Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive
- The Rabbis Sing The Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive
- The Fifty Most Influential Rabbis in America Newsweek June 28, 2010
- "Hadassah Convention 2010: 360° of Innovation". Hadassah Magazine. October 10, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
- "JDC honors Yechiel Eckstein – Jewish World". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 9, 2019.