Filling the Vacuum

The Fellowship  |  June 19, 2019

Rabbi Eckstein and Shlomi Peles
RYE Yechiel Eckstein and Shlomi Peles

During Rabbi Eckstein’s life, so many were touched by the work that he did and the bridges that he built. But after his passing, that work goes on and those bridges still stand. A dear Fellowship partner, Shlomi Peles of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the FSU, writes in to the Jerusalem Post to lament Rabbi Eckstein’s passing, but to laud The Fellowship’s future, as well:

The emphatic and emotional praise with which Pastor John Hagee, devoted founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), mourned Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), and lauded the immense role he played in ensuring the welfare of the State of Israel and the Jewish People (John Hagee’s Juggernaut, May 24) is shared by many of us.

As a member of the board of The Federation of Jewish Communities of the Former Soviet Union, I got to see up close the great personal sacrifice and dedication Yechiel (as he was lovingly known to so many) applied to his work – and the extraordinary results he and The Fellowship subsequently achieved for countless Jews from the former Soviet Union, both in Israel and the Diaspora.
Much of Rabbi Eckstein’s work to protect our people and our Land will never be known to the public, achieved as they were quietly, behind the scenes with the sweat and tears of Rabbi Yechiel Zvi ben Shimon Leib.

Many of us were concerned about the fate of The Fellowship’s support. We needn’t have been. Even while mourning her own deeply personal loss, Yechiel’s right hand woman, confidante, organizational whiz and beloved daughter Yael seamlessly and flawlessly picked up the baton, and the devoted men and women of The Fellowship responded in kind. Not only did the support for our work in the former Soviet Union not slow, but some of our communities begun receiving significantly more aid than in the past!
Yael and The Fellowship similarly stepped right up to the plate after the Chabad of Poway shooting to procure the necessary funds to secure Chabad Houses, as well as after the recent brush fires and the obliteration of Mevo Modi’im to provide necessities to many families who no longer have homes and basic amenities.

Like her heroic father of blessed memory, Yael fits her role and position perfectly and wears it regally and humbly. Whether presiding over the many complex and high-stakes meetings I attend, or conducting grueling travel to the distant corners of the former Soviet Union to evaluate up-close the needs of remote Jewish communities, nothing seems to phase her, no task appears too difficult.
I am certain that, seeing his care, compassion and dynamism continued and increased in Yael’s leadership of the IFCJ, and recognizing that it is now one of the most impactful organizations in the Jewish world, Yechiel is smiling from his perch in Gan Eden and encouraging us, too, to be comforted in the knowledge that the strong foundations he established will be expanded on by Yael’s leadership well into the future.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of the FSU