In the latest in our series of Christian reflections by Fellowship friends, CEO George Mamo reflects on helping the organization carry on the inspirational work of our founder, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
Nearly 20 years ago, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein invited me to join his organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, as vice president and COO. Accepting his offer meant uprooting Kay and Chip (again).
In those days – and to this day – when we’re faced with a major decision, Kay and I pray separately until we know we have God’s answer. In 1999, leaving rural Arkansas for Chicago was definitely a time to pray.
After a few days, Kay and I both knew we had God’s answer. As we talked, we learned that the answer had come in the same verse of scripture.
The answer came to me through my daily Bible reading. I was reading through the Megillah (the book of Esther), but could not get past Mordechai’s question in the middle of the 4th chapter; I’d try to finish the chapter but kept getting pulled back to Mordechai’s question. For those who might not know the story, Esther is about God’s deliverance of the Jews of Persia from Haman’s plan to kill them all. Mordechai’s niece, Esther, is the only one who can approach the king to stay the execution. Its story is the biblical basis for the Purim holiday, which occurred this year in March.
Esther’s uncle’s question became God’s question to me. Is this the time? Has my career prepared me to join Rabbi Eckstein’s team? Kay and I certainly thought so.
I’d been in non-profit work for over 20 years. I had an all-Jewish board at TEP and later reported to a board of 10 Christian pastors at Central Atlanta Churches. I built the structure and developed the team that helped grow Feed the Children from $12 to over $100 million, and I’d worked for four founders. 20 years ago, it was clear that I’d been prepared “for such a time as this” – prepared to come to Chicago and help Rabbi build the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
I now see that 2019, not 1999, is the time I was prepared for.
Rabbi Eckstein passed away suddenly last February. As long planned, his daughter, Yael, stepped-up as president. Our work of bringing Jews home to Israel, providing heat and blankets to elderly and Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe and Israel, has continued. Soup kitchens have opened on time every day. Deliveries of food boxes to thousands of needy Israeli elderly has continued. Enhancing the security of hundreds of Jewish institutions around the world and helping ensure that Israel is a safe and secure homeland for the Jewish people goes on without a hiccup.
Unplanned and unexpected was the Board of Directors’ decision to promote me to CEO.
Today, working with Yael and our boards in Jerusalem, Toronto, and Chicago, we have a new challenge – build the organization that will carry The Fellowship beyond its founder. We’ve dubbed the effort: One Fellowship. Together, Yael and I are developing the team that will fulfill Rabbi’s dream. In Chicago, I am committed to creating a new work culture so that The Fellowship is again a best non-profit to work for.
Today, I see that building the organization that will carry The Fellowship into the next 35 years is the task I was called to 20 years ago. We will finish building the bridge between Jews and Christians that Rabbi Eckstein began.Tags: Grafted INsights