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The Blessing of Sacrificial Givers

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Rabbi Eckstein’s biography, The Bridge Builder, releases in just one week, on August 11. Until then, enjoy a sneak peek from this compelling book about the rabbi’s life and continuing legacy.

Eckstein made sure that The Fellowship kept meticulous records and paid keen attention to individual supporters. The generally accepted principle of fund-​raising in most organizations is that 90 percent of funds are contributed by the wealthiest 10 percent of contributors. Eckstein inverted the pyramid.

By the time Isaiah 58 went on the air, 98 percent of his donors were evangelical Christians of modest means, and the average gift was about $75. Eckstein saw these as “sacrificial givers,” and kept a file of donors who gave up their birthday money, did without luxuries, or dedicated a portion of their Social Security check to helping poor Jews.

The days were long past that he could write a personal letter to every donor, but he saw to it that someone on his growing staff did. If a natural disaster struck,Fellowship staffers downloaded files of donors in the affected area and called to let them know that the rabbi was aware of the situation and would try to help in whatever way he could. If donors wrote in with personal problems, Eckstein said prayers for them at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. These were ways of keeping up contributions, yes, but they were also reflections of Eckstein’s gratitude and pastoral care for the donors, many of whom considered him to be their spiritual leader. . . .

Eckstein saw his donors as a congregation, willing to support causes he championed. A good many of the checks that arrived were made out simply to “The Rabbi.”

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