The First International Fellowship Summit

The Fellowship  |  March 28, 2019

IFCJ board members at the IFCJ partner meeting.
Left to Right: Shlomo Peles, David Berger, David Mondshine, Shlomo Noach Mandel, George Mamo, Elizabeth Shelton, Stockwell Day, Yael Eckstein, Eliot Goldstein, Davida Kutscher, Shmuel Levin (Chamah), Robin Van Etten

I will never forget the first project visits I made when I began at The Fellowship nearly 15 years ago. I visited people in bomb shelters, who were standing in sewage water up to their knees because the drains didn’t work; families who sat in the shelters without light, because they didn’t have electricity; and worst of all, elderly who didn’t have bomb shelters, who hid under their bed as rockets were flying.

Many years have passed, but the powerful experience of visiting Fellowship projects and recipients hasn’t dimmed.

Not long ago, I went to the home of Edna, an 86-year-old survivor of a terror attack. When I delivered food to her, I realized that without our help, she would not be eating, and without our visits, she would be completely alone. Then I went to meet Ronen, a boy orphaned at a young age. If it were not for the clothing cards that we gave to him, he would never have had any new clothing. Soon after, I went to meet Anna, a Holocaust survivor living in poverty. It was heartbreaking to see how, after experiencing so much horror, she was still suffering at the end of her life.

I was glad that with each visit I could help alleviate a bit of suffering, yet with each new need I saw, I felt deeply pained that God’s people suffered so greatly. Each day that goes by is a race against time for these desperate Jews, and I am even more determined to do what I can to end their suffering.

Running The Fellowship is a huge responsibility. There are many organizations, but none of them come even close to giving life to the amount of people The Fellowship helps each year (over 1.5 million!) or being as effective at distributing aid. That’s because of two main reasons: We are here, on the ground, in Israel, and we operate on professional strategic planning and faith. Being on the ground in Israel and the former Soviet Union means that we see the needs of the people firsthand and hear their cries for help. We identify how we can solve the problems facing the suffering Jewish people and work closely with local government agencies so that our funding has maximum impact.

Then there is the string that ties all of this together: We’ve been entrusted to be the voice of millions of Christians around the world who love Israel.

The Fellowship has offices in Korea, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S., in addition to our office in Jerusalem. Until now, our offices worked in coordination with each other, but were still separate entities. However, a few years ago I realized that we could be even more effective if we truly combined forces, and I began working towards that goal.

The dream is becoming reality. A few weeks ago we held our first International Fellowship Summit. The head of our board of directors in Chicago and Canada, the CEOs of both offices, and other key figures at The Fellowship met together in Israel.  Together with our Jerusalem team, we worked on creating a holistic model where each office will be fully integrated and strategically aligned with the others. Separately, we are effective, but together we can bring The Fellowship to even greater, unprecedented heights.

During the summit, our staff from around the world directly experienced both the needs of Israel’s most vulnerable populations and The Fellowship’s response to it. We served food at a Fellowship soup kitchen in Jerusalem, brought food boxes to elderly living in poverty, surveyed Israel’s security situation, and spoke with orphans at Fellowship children’s homes.

There is nothing like living out biblical directives. In Isaiah 58:7 God command us to “share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.” When we help others with their physical needs, it is a deeply spiritual and emotional experience.

This is the source of the fire that burned inside my father, and it is the passion that lives on in my soul. It is spiritual commitment, determination, and strategic thinking that make The Fellowship the largest philanthropic organization in Israel today. The trust of our hundreds of thousands of donors who give their sacrificial tithes make this prophetic work possible!

The summit was a huge success. We ended it by visiting my father’s gravesite in Jerusalem. I could feel my father smiling down as we continue his life’s work and build upon the strong foundation he laid for us.

All of this happened just days before the Jewish holiday of Purim, which we celebrated last week. I felt like Esther, who could not have done her job without those around her. To me, the Fellowship staff are my Mordechais, and our supporters are like the Jewish nation that fasted on Esther’s behalf so that she could succeed in her mission. As we stood around my father’s resting place I could not help but feel that I have been brought to this position “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein's Signature

Yael Eckstein


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