Making Her Own Mark

The Fellowship  |  November 18, 2019

Yael Eckstein with Jerusalem Old City in background
Yael Eckstein in Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, snow, view of Old City

It has been nearly a year since The Fellowship — and our entire family of donors and those who we help together — lost our founder and president, Rabbi Eckstein. But as great as our loss was, it was nothing compared to what Yael Eckstein lost — her beloved abba, father. Writing at JNS, Deborah Fineblum takes a look at how Yael is navigating this loss, and how she is leading her father’s lifework into the future with her own vision:

It’s traumatic enough to experience the loss of a beloved parent, especially one who dies suddenly at the age of 67. But in February, soon after burying her father, Yael Eckstein had to undergo a second trauma.

She had to sit at his desk.

Because Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein was not only her dad but, as the founder and president of the $1.6 billion International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, known as the Fellowship, for 15 years, he was also her boss. “All that time I’d always been on the other side of the desk,” she says eight months later. “Sitting in his chair was very, very hard, but it was something I knew I’d have to do eventually.”

First, however, she had to cry for her father. “His death was so sudden. And I knew for shiva I needed to be just a daughter who’d suddenly lost her dad and was already missing him.”

After those seven days of mourning were over for her and her two sisters, and she’d shed her tears, Eckstein got to work. “I could have taken a few months, but I believed I needed to show that we weren’t going to let all the people who rely on us—or our donors—down, that there would be no gap in services.”

With the unanimous support of the Fellowship Board behind her, at that moment the 35-year-old mother of four stepped out from behind her father’s shadow and is set to make her own mark on Jewish history…

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