Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President
About Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
In 1980, Jewish people around the world responded in outrage when a prominent Christian clergyman declared from the pulpit that God did not hear the prayers of Jews. Chicago-based Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein took a different approach and initiated a dialogue with the Christian leader who had made the statement. Soon, the outspoken Christian preacher and other high-profile evangelicals were touring Israel with Eckstein as an unofficial “tour guide.” Rabbi Eckstein was then invited to speak at Christian churches, conferences and seminaries across the United States, recognized as a passionate speaker and advocate between the two religious communities.
In 1983, Rabbi Eckstein founded the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), devoting his life to building bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews and broad support for the state of Israel. Rabbi Eckstein is recognized as the world’s leading Jewish authority on evangelical Christians, and The Fellowship now raises over $140 million dollars annually, making it the largest Christian-supported humanitarian nonprofit working in Israel today.
Rabbi Eckstein received Orthodox Rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University in New York. He holds master’s degrees from Yeshiva University and Columbia University, where he also completed studies for his doctorate. Rabbi Eckstein has served on the faculties of Columbia University, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Seminary. He currently serves on the executive committee of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
In August 2015, his authorized biography, written by renowned journalist Zev Chafets and titled The Bridge Builder: The Life and Continuing Legacy of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was released by Penguin Random House. A year later, the Hebrew version of The Bridge Builder was published in Israel.
Working Around The World
Prior to founding The Fellowship, Rabbi Eckstein was national co-director of interreligious affairs for the Anti-Defamation League. In that role, he broke new ground by forging partnerships with evangelical Christians. Recognizing the potential of these strong interfaith relationships, he established The Fellowship to help Christians and Jews begin a dialogue and work together on projects promoting the security and well-being of Jews in Israel and around the world.
Since 1983, The Fellowship has provided more than one billion dollars to programs helping Jews from the former Soviet Union, India, Ethiopia, and elsewhere resettle in Israel; as well as to programs that provide security and fight poverty in Israel, and help impoverished elderly Jews and orphans in the former Soviet Union.
Rabbi Eckstein is a leading advocate of religious freedom worldwide. He has traveled to China to work for the freedom of imprisoned Christian pastors and to press the cause of religious liberty. In 1995, he brought the first Torah scroll to Uzbekistan since the Communist regime banned religious practice there in 1917. In Israel, Rabbi Eckstein has served as an Adviser to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and, in 2005, was appointed as official Goodwill Ambassador of the state of Israel. He has worked to build support for Israel throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
Fostering Interfaith Dialogue
Rabbi Eckstein was the catalyst and coordinator of the first Evangelical-Jewish Leadership Conference, and has served as speaker at the National Day of Prayer. He has opened sessions of the U.S. Senate with prayer, conducted the first Passover seder for U.S. senators, and delivered the benediction with President Bill Clinton at the dedication ceremony for the memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C., the first time in U.S. history that a rabbi has done so. In 2003, he initiated a meeting between church officials and the George W. Bush administration that brought Christian leaders to Washington, D.C., for a briefing from then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
He has written columns and been featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, U.S. News and World Report, The Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and People magazine. He is also the author of 11 highly acclaimed books: What You Should Know About Jews and Judaism, Understanding Evangelicals: A Guide for the Jewish Community, Ask the Rabbi, Five Questions Most Frequently Asked About Jews and Judaism, How Firm a Foundation: A Gift of Jewish Wisdom for Christians and Jews, The Journey Home, Biblical Teachings from the Rabbi, Holy Days of Israel — Your Inspirational Guide, Holy Songs of Israel — Inspirational Worship from the Psalms, and The One Year® Holy Land Moments Devotional, and Passover — An Inspirational Guide. In addition, he is a renowned Israeli Hasidic singer and has recorded four CDs. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Eckstein performed for Israeli troops on the Syrian front and in hospitals throughout Israel.
In 2010, Rabbi Eckstein and The Fellowship launched Holy Land Moments (Momentos en Tierra Santa), a daily radio broadcast featuring the Rabbi’s insights on the Jewish roots of Christianity. Today, the show airs in English and Spanish on 1,626 radio outlets with 17.7 million listeners in the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Philippines, Israel, Africa, and throughout Latin America. A weekly news update, Israel in the News (Israel en las Noticias) is now airing on more than 1,655 stations and has 3.7 million listeners weekly. The Fellowship’s extensive radio outreach also includes Pray for Israel, a daily program featuring prayers from listeners for Israel and her people; PSAs focusing on Israel’s days of observance; and infomercials about The Fellowship’s humanitarian outreach. Rabbi Eckstein’s message is heard on 3,623 radio outlets by over 23.5 million listeners each week on five continents.
Awards and Honors
In May 2010, Israel’s Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog presented Rabbi Eckstein with the government of Israel’s first-ever Award for Special Contribution to the Welfare of the People of Israel. A month later, Newsweek magazine included him at number 21 on its list of the 50 Most Influential Rabbis in the U.S.; he again appeared on the list, this time at number 18, in 2011. In December 2010, he received the Man of the Year award from the Federation of Jewish Communities in the former Soviet Union during a special ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.
In 2014, he was awarded the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Award by the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee (JDC). Israel’s Association of Social Workers presented him with their Distinguished Public Figure Award in 2016, and he also was named 23rd on The Jerusalem Post’s list of 50 Most Influential Jews in the world for 2016.
In addition to these honors, Rabbi Eckstein has received the Economic Forum’s prestigious Jerusalem Prize, the Colel Chabad Global Impact Award, the Community Service Leadership Award from Yeshiva College, and more than 50 other awards from various groups, including the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, the JDC, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Chamah, Colel Chabad, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Hadassah, Sha’are Zedek, Israel’s Union of Local Authorities, and many other organizations.
Rabbi Eckstein is married to Joelle, lives in Jerusalem, and has three daughters and eight grandchildren.