Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, 1951-2019
Rabbi Eckstein founded the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) in 1983 and devoted his life to building bridges of understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and broad support for the state of Israel. The Fellowship, one of the top 400 nonprofits in America (The Chronicle of Philanthropy), raises over $127 million dollars annually from its 1.75 million Christian donors, making it the largest Christian-supported humanitarian agency helping Israel and the Jewish people around the world.
Rabbi Eckstein, born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, received Orthodox Rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University in New York. He held master’s degrees from Yeshiva University and Columbia University, where he also completed studies for his doctorate. He served on the faculties of Columbia University, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Seminary. He also served on the Executive Board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).
In August 2015, his authorized biography, written by renowned journalist Zev Chafets and titled The Bridge Builder: The Life and Continuing Legacy of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was released by Penguin Random House. A year later, the Hebrew version of The Bridge Builder was published in Israel.
Working Around The World
Since 1983, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.6 billion for programs helping Jews in Israel, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, Ethiopia, and over 58 countries.
Rabbi Eckstein was a leading advocate of religious freedom worldwide. He traveled to China to work for the freedom of imprisoned Christian pastors and to champion the cause of religious liberty. In 1995, he brought the first Torah scroll to Uzbekistan since the Communist regime banned religious practice there in 1917. In Israel, Rabbi Eckstein served as an Adviser to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and, in 2005, was appointed as official Goodwill Ambassador of the state of Israel.
Fostering Interfaith Dialogue
Rabbi Eckstein was the founder and president of the Center for Jewish and Christian Values in Washington, D.C., spoke at the National Day of Prayer, opened sessions of the U.S. Senate with prayer, conducted the first Passover seder for U.S. senators, and delivered the benediction with President Bill Clinton at the dedication ceremony for the memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C., the first time in U.S. history that a rabbi has done so.
Rabbi Eckstein wrote columns and was featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, U.S. News and World Report, The Jerusalem Post, People magazine, and others. He authored 11 highly acclaimed books and was also a renowned Israeli Hasidic singer who released four music CDs. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Eckstein performed for Israeli troops on the Syrian front and in hospitals throughout Israel.
Teaching a Global Audience
Rabbi Eckstein was one of the leading international Bible teachers helping Christians deepen their bonds with Israel and their biblical Jewish roots. He reached millions of people daily. Starting in 2010, Rabbi Eckstein hosted a series of radio programs on Israel and Jewish-Christian relations in English and Spanish, airing in dozens of countries around the world. His message was heard on 3,040 radio outlets on five continents by over 23.5 million listeners each week.
The Fellowship commands a sizable audience of loyal advocates for Israel on social media as well, with more than 1.5 million total followers across all platforms, including Rabbi Eckstein’s Facebook page. Its extensive television programming is carried daily on 119 stations nationwide, including the Fox News Network, with the potential reach of 90 million homes.
Garnering Awards and Honors
Rabbi Eckstein was named one of the 50 Most Influential Jews in the world by The Jerusalem Post and was included multiple times on Newsweek‘s list of the 50 Most Influential Rabbis in the U.S. The U.S. Congress honored Rabbi Eckstein for his interfaith bridge-building. He was given numerous awards from organizations around the globe, including the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Award presented to him by the JDC in the Israel Knesset (parliament) by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, the government of Israel’s award for Special Contribution to the Welfare of the People of Israel, the Man of the Year award from the Federation of Jewish Communities presented to him at the Kremlin in Moscow, the Jerusalem Prize by the Economic Forum, and over 100 additional honors and awards from various other groups, including Chamah, Colel Chabad, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Hadassah, and more.
Remembering Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Rabbi Eckstein, born in Winthrop, Massachusetts on July 11, 1951, passed away at his home in Jerusalem on February 6, 2019. He is survived by his wife Joelle, his three daughters, and eight grandchildren. The Fellowship is thankful for Rabbi’s tremendous impact on the lives of millions around the world. You can honor Rabbi Eckstein’s life and ministry through your memorial gift in his name. Your gift will further the mission that Rabbi Eckstein dedicated his life to and help countless Jewish people in great need.