Jerusalem, Israel - Feb. 6 – The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) today issued the following statement on the sudden passing earlier today of its founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, z”l, 67, at his Jerusalem home:
We are in shock and mourning the loss of our visionary leader, rabbi, friend and colleague. Rabbi Eckstein was a giant in the Jewish and Christian communities, a man who devoted his every moment to helping Israel and the Jewish people. Yechiel forged unbreakable bonds of Christian-Jewish friendship and unity around a shared love for Israel that will stand as his timeless legacy.
Since his ordination to the Rabbinate by Rabbi Dov Soloveitchik, Rabbi Eckstein devoted his life to strengthening the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Since founding The Fellowship in 1983, Rabbi Eckstein raised more than $1.6 billion to help hundreds of thousands of low-income Israelis, ailing and poor Holocaust survivors in Israel and in the former Soviet Union, and low-income Israeli minorities, including Arabs, Bedouin and Druze.
Rabbi Eckstein helped bring and resettle hundreds of thousands of immigrants to Israel, and in the past four years directly helped more than 17,000 new immigrants escape economic hardship, persecution, and terror in 31 countries, while protecting Jews worldwide with increased security funding. Rabbi Eckstein also was in the process of fulfilling one of his greatest goals – the building of a new worldwide center for Christians in Jerusalem, near the new U.S. Embassy.
Israel’s leadership did not hesitate to pay tribute to Rabbi Eckstein. President Reuven Rivlin called him “A great man, a great Jew and a great Zionist”, and former Knesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman commented “A heart that gave and gave and gave stopped working.”
Long-time friend and partner, Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, also offered parting words: “Yechiel has been a pioneer and champion of Christian/Jewish relations for decades”. Likewise, John Hagee of Christians United for Israel remarked, “His impact on the state of Israel and on bringing Jews and Christians together will be felt for generations.”
And among the American Jewish community, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach declared “Rabbi Eckstein’s dedication and love for his people never ceased to amaze”, and Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League noted “He was a tireless worker for the Jewish people and for Israel.”
George Mamo, Global Chief Operating Officer of The Fellowship, reflected on Rabbi Eckstein’s accomplishments but spoke optimistically about the future, “We know the best way to honor Rabbi Eckstein is to carry on his vision and build bridges of love between Christians and Jews. We have every confidence that Rabbi’s daughter, Yael, is the person to continue Rabbi’s life work.”
The Fellowship’s staff, its acquaintances and dignitaries bow their heads in sadness and pledge to continue Rabbi Eckstein’s lifelong mission on behalf of the Jewish people and Israel. We send our condolences and love to his wife Joelle, his daughters, his mother and grandchildren. May they be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.