Rabbi Simon Eckstein, Father of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Passes Away

The Fellowship  |  September 24, 2016

Rabbi Simon Eckstein was the father of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.


Father of founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was a Canadian Jewish leader and renowned gerontologist who sought to bridge generations

JERUSALEM, Sept. 24 – Rabbi Simon L. “Sy” Eckstein, a beloved Canadian-Jewish leader and renowned psychologist and authority in the field of gerontology, passed away at his Jerusalem home today, Sept. 24. He was 96. He was the father of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Rabbi Simon Eckstein was born on December 4, 1919 in Jerusalem, where he eventually settled in his last years after living most of his life in the U.S. and Canada. In 1928 Eckstein moved with his family to the U.S., and settled in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, where he attended Yeshiva Chaim Berlin in middle school, then Torah Vidas in Williamsburg.

Like so many in the Jewish community, his family prized education, and he earned a bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University, a doctorate in Hebrew Literature from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School, and ultimately his rabbinic ordination, or smicha, from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Eckstein went on to attain a master’s degree in psychology from New York University.

After marrying Belle Hirschman he became the assistant rabbi of the revered modern Orthodox leader, Rabbi Leo Jung, of the Jewish Center of the West Side of Manhattan. In 1952, Eckstein moved his family to Ottawa, Canada for a rabbinic posting that would become an important part of his legacy.

Over a quarter century, Eckstein served as chief rabbi of Ottawa, where he oversaw four synagogues. He later joined the faculty of the Department of Religious Knowledge at Carleton University. Under his leadership, two synagogues merged to establish Congregation Beth Shalom, which flourished for half a century.  Eckstein retired from the rabbinate in 1975, but continued to influence the community’s Jewish life, both as a senior clerical figure and through columns in local media like The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Journal. He also appeared on radio talk shows and continued to contribute to local Jewish life.

Meanwhile, Eckstein returned to his other passion, psychology, and went back to school at Ottawa University to attain a second master’s degree in the field, specializing in gerontology. He later joined the university’s psychology faculty and became a leading specialist in the field. As a senior citizen himself, Eckstein became a psychologist in Hollywood, Florida, where he focused on counseling and lecturing on issues relating to aging and retirement. His teachings were captured in an eponymous book his children compiled to preserve his wisdom.

At age 91, Eckstein realized another dream, immigrating to Israel with Belle and returning to Jerusalem, the city of his birth.  One of Eckstein’s lifelong missions was to bridge the gap between the older and younger generations, especially of Jews. He once quoted Rabbi Berel Wein, saying: “One of the blessings of our generation is the unique role of grandparents and great-grandparents in providing a bridge as well as a perspective: a bridge to the past and a perspective on life for the present and future. These same values deeply inspired his son, Yechiel, who became a rabbi and whose organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, is dedicated to building bridges between Christians and Jews.

Eckstein is survived by his wife Belle and children Ahuva, Beryl, Rachayl and Yechiel, as well as 14 grand children and 40 great grandchildren. His burial is scheduled to take place in Jerusalem Sunday, after which the family will sit Shiva, the seven-day Jewish mourning period.

About The Fellowship:

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) was founded in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel. Today it is one of the leading forces in helping Israel and Jews in need worldwide – and is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel. Led by its founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship now raises more than $140 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist Israel and the Jewish people. Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.3 billion for this work. The organization has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, Seoul, and Sao Paulo. For more information, visit ifcj.org.