PHOTO: On Jan. 2, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, z”l, (left) helped lay the cornerstone for the new Rehabilitation Center at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, unveiling The Lokomat, a state-of-the art robotic treadmill machine donated by the IFCJ.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, 67, died suddenly Feb. 6 at his Jerusalem home at the age of 67.
Jewish and Christian leaders in Israel and the United States have issued statements on what the rabbi contributed during his life.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) issued the following statement:
We are in shock and mourning the loss of our visionary leader, rabbi, friend and colleague. Rabbi Eckstein was a giant in the Jewish and Christian communities, a man who devoted his every moment to helping Israel and the Jewish people. Yechiel forged unbreakable bonds of Christian-Jewish friendship and unity around a shared love for Israel that will stand as his timeless legacy.
Since his ordination to the Rabbinate by Rabbi Dov Soloveitchik, Rabbi Eckstein devoted his life to strengthening the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Since founding The Fellowship in 1983, Rabbi Eckstein raised more than $1.6 billion to help hundreds of thousands of low-income Israelis, ailing and poor Holocaust survivors in Israel and in the former Soviet Union, and low-income Israeli minorities, including Arabs, Bedouin and Druze.
Rabbi Eckstein helped bring and resettle hundreds of thousands of immigrants to Israel, and in the past four years directly helped more than 17,000 new immigrants escape economic hardship, persecution, and terror in 31 countries, while protecting Jews worldwide with increased security funding. Rabbi Eckstein also was in the process of fulfilling one of his greatest goals – the building of a new worldwide center for Christians in Jerusalem, near the new U.S. Embassy.
Israel’s leadership did not hesitate to pay tribute to Rabbi Eckstein. President Reuven Rivlin called him “A great man, a great Jew and a great Zionist,” and former Knesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman commented “A heart that gave and gave and gave stopped working.”
Long-time friend and partner, Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, also offered parting words: “Yechiel has been a pioneer and champion of Christian/Jewish relations for decades.” Likewise, John Hagee of Christians United for Israel remarked, “His impact on the state of Israel and on bringing Jews and Christians together will be felt for generations.”
And among the American Jewish community, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach declared “Rabbi Eckstein’s dedication and love for his people never ceased to amaze,” and Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League noted “He was a tireless worker for the Jewish people and for Israel.”
George Mamo, Global Chief Operating Officer of The Fellowship, reflected on Rabbi Eckstein’s accomplishments but spoke optimistically about the future, “We know the best way to honor Rabbi Eckstein is to carry on his vision and build bridges of love between Christians and Jews. We have every confidence that Rabbi’s daughter, Yael, is the person to continue Rabbi’s life work.”
Other statements included:
- Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel Isaac Herzog: “The Jewish People have lost Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a leader who worked tirelessly on their behalf. I worked with Rabbi Eckstein on social welfare, diaspora and Aliyah. My deep condolences to his family and the entire International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. יהי זכרו ברוך”
- Hadassah National President Ellen Hershkin: “Rabbi Eckstein was a true friend of Hadassah, an ardent supporter, and a generous donor to and champion of Hadassah Medical Organization, and our other projects in Israel. Just two nights ago (Feb. 4), he was an honored guest at a Hadassah International event at HMO. Rabbi Eckstein’s strong connection to HMO’s treatment philosophy of ‘bridges to peace,’ offering equality of medical service to all who walk through its doors, resonated deeply with him. Since his founding of the IFCJ in 1983 to build bridges of goodwill between Christians and Jews, Rabbi Eckstein raised over $1.4 billion in donations for Israel. He exemplified selfless, compassionate humanitarian service to G-d, Israel and the Jewish people. We will remember him as a man of great warmth, with a spirit of generosity and passion for service to Israel. “
- Friends of the Israel Defense Forces National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir: “Today we lost a friend, a partner, and a great supporter. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein z”l was an ardent Zionist who devoted his life to the State of Israel, a highly respected visionary and leader who built bridges between Jewish and Christian communities and across great divides, making the world a better place for us all. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy for us to continue his crucial work, bringing together Jews and non-Jews in support of Israel and her guardians – the men and women of the IDF. The FIDF family extends its most heartfelt sympathies to his loved ones.”
The Fellowship’s staff, its acquaintances and dignitaries bow their heads in sadness and pledge to continue Rabbi Eckstein’s lifelong mission on behalf of the Jewish people and Israel. We send our condolences and love to his wife Joelle, his daughters, his mother and grandchildren. May they be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
About The Fellowship:
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) was founded in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and build broad support for Israel. Today it is one of the leading forces helping Israel and Jews in need worldwide – and is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel. Founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship now raises more than $120 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist Israel and the Jewish people. Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.6 billion for this work. The organization has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Toronto, and Seoul. For more information, visit www.ifcj.org.