April 7, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
This is truly a special time for me. I'm thrilled to share with you that several weeks ago my daughter, Yael, gave birth to her fourth child, a beautiful baby boy named Shimi Lev Zion. This is my sixth grandchild, and I am grateful to God that both mother and child are healthy and happy.
The births of my children and grandchildren have always taken me back to my own childhood. My strongest memories are of my family and me at the weekly Sabbath table. It is this time we spent together that laid the foundation for all the other values my parents sought to instill in me. Those values were, first and foremost, a love of God, a love and responsibility for Israel, and a commitment to the preservation of the Jewish people – to maintaining this historical link from generation to generation.
My parents also taught me to respect others, and to expend my time and energy caring for and helping those who are needy, suffering, and alone. I’ve tried to follow their teachings through the work we do here at IFCJ. I have full confidence that my daughter and son-in-law, Amichai, will raise their children with the same values – values that instill an abiding commitment to helping others, especially the less fortunate.
Of course, beyond the protective, loving embrace of the family lies a world that can be filled with danger and peril. Too often, we are greeted with bad news when we open our newspapers or turn on our computers. We hear of so much suffering and tragedy, and we feel powerless to stop it. Those of us who care about Israel and closely follow events in the Middle East may feel helpless as we read about the rise of terrorism, the brutality of regimes toward their own people, and the unfair treatment of Israel by the community of nations.
Yet, as I sit here in IFCJ’s U.S. office looking out at the Chicago skyline, I think of something the Chicago poet Carl Sandburg once wrote: “A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.” All of us can become jaded with life, our senses dulled by routine. But, with the birth of a child comes new hope, new promise, and an opportunity for all of us to discover anew the wonder of life. It reminds us that, as amazing and impressive as the work of our hands – like this Chicago skyline – can be, it cannot even begin to approach the miracle, the mystery, the magnificence of a single human life. And even the words of the great poet cannot match the profound truth of the biblical words: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
To my new grandson, I say: Welcome to the world! We thank God for your arrival. And Mazel Tov, Yael, to you and your family. Thank you for bringing happiness and pride to me, and to everyone who loves you.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President