5 Facts About Rabbi Eckstein

The Fellowship  |  February 7, 2020

Rabbi Eckstein with olim children
RYE Yechiel Eckstein with young boys, shofar, Israeli flags

Yesterday, as we observed one year since the sudden passing of our founder and Rabbi, Yechiel Eckstein, much good was said about all the good that he did during his time on earth. And much of that good work is well-known. But there might be things about Rabbi Eckstein you didn’t know. Here are a handful!

Eckstein family, 1921
RYE Yechiel Eckstein ancestors The Eckstein clan circa 1921. The woman seated on the right is Yechiel’s grandmother. The baby on her lap is Yechiel’s father.ÿ

1. Holy Land Heritage

Rabbi Eckstein’s great-great grandfather, Simcha Bunam Eckstein, made aliyah (immigrated to the Holy Land) in 1867, when it was part of the Ottoman Empire. In the photo above, taken in 1921, Yechiel’s grandmother is the woman seated on the right and the baby she’s holding is his father.

Rabbi Eckstein with Canadian flag
RYE Yechiel Eckstein holding up Canadian flag in airport

2. Clearly Canadian

Rabbi Eckstein’s father was also a rabbi. Shimon Eckstein was ordained and first served as a rabbi in the United States before moving his young family to Canada’s capital, Ottawa. There, the older Rabbi Eckstein served the city’s synagogue and raised his children, including Yechiel.

Young Yechiel Eckstein playing basketball
RYE Yechiel Eckstein as a teenager in his Yesheva University High School days. Twice he played in Madison Square Garden

3. He Got Game

As a boy, Yechiel loved sports. And when he was sent to the U.S. to attend Yeshiva University High School, that love of sports transferred to the hardwood, where he played on the school’s basketball team, even playing twice in Madison Square Garden.

Rabbi Eckstein playing guitar
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Playing Guitar for Audience at Journey to Zion Filming

4. The Music Man

Rabbi Eckstein’s other lifelong pastime was music. In his youth, Yechiel loved both Peter, Paul and Mary, as well as Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the singing rabbi who founded Moshav Modiin in the Holy Land, which burned to the ground just last year.

In 1973, as the IDF defended Israel during the Yom Kippur War, Yechiel undertook a tour, entertaining the troops on the front lines. While singing at a base on the northern front, he even came under attack during the concert.

Music would play a large role for the rest of his life, too, as the Rabbi was often found with his guitar in his hand and a song in his voice. He even recorded albums of inspirational religious music, so his musical talent will forever remind us of the peace, hope, and joy he spread.

Rabbi Eckstein praying on plane
RYE Yechiel Eckstein praying with phylactery tefillin while flying in plane from New York to Washington DC “This is what happens when I have to leave the hotel before sunrise.. Never missed a day of praying since my bar mitzvah.”

5. Home to the Holy Land

Unlike his ancestors, Rabbi Eckstein was not born and raised in the Holy Land. But like so many generations of the Eckstein family, he would eventually call Israel home, making aliyah (immigrating) and spending his last years in his biblical and historic homeland.

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