Read an excerpt titled, “A Community Eager to Bless Israel” from The Bridge Builder – the compelling biography about Rabbi Eckstein’s life and continuing legacy.
Eckstein announced the establishment of a new program, Guardians of Israel, which he saw as a large-scale welfare initiative for the poor of Israel.
Guardians, like all The Fellowship‘s programs, came into being because Eckstein wanted it. A few years earlier, the board had resisted the idea of Isaiah 58, arguing that evangelicals wouldn’t be particularly interested in the care and feeding of elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union. Eckstein had argued otherwise, and had been proved right.
Still, some members of the board wondered if the evangelical grass roots would really be prepared to donate to what was, after all, a relatively prosperous modern nation with its own system of social welfare. With so many impoverished populations in the Third World, many of them Christian, why would American evangelicals give money to Israelis?
Eckstein’s answer was simple: Genesis 12:3. If the past seventeen years had demonstrated anything, it was the eagerness of evangelicals to “bless Israel” in return for God’s blessing. Until The Fellowship came along, there had been no avenue for such gestures. Evangelicals were on the outside, looking in at the Jewish world. This estrangement prevented Christian believers from fulfilling what the Bible told them was God’s will. They wanted a personal relationship with the Jewish people, and it had been Eckstein’s genius to see that nothing was more personal than a personal check.
Eckstein had stood up for them against their secular enemies, offered them respect and love, and included them in the family of Abraham. If the Rabbi asked them to become Guardians of Israel, they would gladly sign up. And if the details were still vague, well, they trusted he would put their money to good use.
For the evangelical members of the board, like Barbara and Robert Walker, it was a simple act of faith, which Eckstein understood. “They see me as a link to ‘Jesus the Jew,’ ” he says. “Someone through whom they can bond with the people, the land, and the God of Israel and discover the Jewish roots of their Christianity.”IFCJ IFCJ in the News Life in Israel