Yechiel Eckstein

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Yechiel Eckstein (born 1951) is a rabbi and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) an Israel advocacy organisation Eckstein founded in 1983. He is married to Joelle Medina. Prior to the establishment of the IFCJ in 1983 Eckstein launched Operation Independence in 1980 which he described as 'an extensive program of Christian tourism and support to Israel... The main aim was to expose them to the Jewish roots of their faith, and it worked. It worked also because these people were much more interest-ed in securing religious freedom than in the fight for civil rights.'[1]

Due to the scale and ambition of the IFCJ's operations Eckstein has been described as the 'shadow welfare minister' in the Israeli media.[2] Eckstein was ordained at the Yeshiva University of New York and holds master's degrees from Yeshiva University and Columbia University. He serves on the executive committees of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.[3] Prior to the founding of the IFCJ Eckstein served as the national co-director of interreligious affairs for the Anti-Defamation League.[3]In 1995, Rabbi Eckstein founded the Center for Jewish and Christian Values in Washington, D.C.:

[the Center] aimed at bringing Christians and Jews together to build a more civil, moral society. The Center, which closed in 1999, included among its leadership such prominent political figures as Senators Joseph Lieberman, Dan Coates, and Sam Brownback.[3]

Eckstein formerly served as an advisor to Ariel Sharon and, in 2005, was appointed Goodwill Ambassador of the State of Israel. According to the website of the IFCJ this appointment was with particular emphasis on improving Israel's ties with evangelical christian organisations in Latin America.[3]

He has authored a number of books: What You Should Know About Jews and Judaism, Understanding Evangelicals: A Guide for the Jewish Community, Ask the Rabbi, Five Questions Most Frequently Asked About Jews and Judaism, How Firm a Foundation: A Gift of Jewish Wisdom For Christians and Jews, and The Journey Home. He has also been published in a wide range of print media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, U.S. News and World Report, The Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and People magazine. He has also appeared on American television programmes such as CNBC’s 'Hardball' and PBS’ 'Now with Bill Moyers.'[3]

Eckstein also contributed to a book on televangelist Billy Graham entitled 'Christian Soup for the Christian Soul: Billy Graham & Me: 101 Inspiring Personal Stories from Presidents, Pastors, Performers and Other People Who Know Him Well'.[4]

In 2010, The IFCJ launched a radio show named Holy Land Moments:

a daily radio broadcast featuring Rabbi Eckstein’s insights into Jewish belief and faith, Israel, and the Jewish roots of Christianity. The show airs in more than 150 stations in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., New Zealand, Guam, and Africa, and in 2011 was picked up by the largest Christian radio network in Australia. A Spanish-language radio program, Preguntele al Rabino (Ask the Rabbi), continues to air in nearly every Spanish-speaking country in Latin America, as well as in other Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world.[3]

Reportedly the show has some some 15 million weekly listeners in Africa and English speaking countries. The Spanish language version has around 10 million listeners in Latin America.[5]

Eckstein has presented television programmes, such as 'Journey to Zion' in the United States through the evangelical LeSEA Broadcasting Network.[6]

In 2010 Eckstein was the recipient of the first Award for Special Contribution to the Welfare of the People of Israel. The award was presented to Eckstein by Israeli Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog. In 2011 Eckstein was appointed as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Committee on Aliyah and Rescue.[3]

Eckstein was the recipient of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's Raoul Wallenberg award in May 2014 for his 'profound contribution to the Jewish people'. [7]

Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum

Eckstein is the founder of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum an organisation that encourages Israeli Christians to join the IDF. In September 2014 it was reported that the Forum's distribution of food vouchers in Arab-Israeli neighbourhoods had angered those communities. [8]


Israel and Christian Zionism

Eckstein views the promotion of evangelical Christianity worldwide as a means to promote international support for Israel:

It's growing and it's becoming normative and more acceptable and the same phenomenon is going on in the Far East - Indonesia, Singapore, China... where you have a rise in Evangelicalism, you have the potential for steering them to become supporters of Israel and the Jewish people... we have barely touched the tip of the iceberg in rallying Christian support for Israel and in building friendships and relationships.[9]

He also commented that Israel and the Jewish diaspora 'have not realized the potential of having a strategic alliance with Evangelical Pentecostal Christians around the world, and that should be the goal that [we] should grasp and make a reality.'[9]

Eckstein has described poverty within Israel as 'a significant threat to society' and has commented that Israel 'must act quickly to rehabilitate the weaker classes'.[10]

In an opinion piece for The Jewish Post Isi Leibler claimed that Eckstein had suggested that diaspora Jews might adopt a new religious category 'for those who consider themselves Jewish but accept Christian doctrines regarding Jesus.'[11]

In 2006 Eckstein criticised Jewish leaders for opposing the developing alliance between evangelical Christians and the state of Israel:

You don't need to accept their vision of America. But you don't need to make them the enemy... It is the height of irresponsibility for Ameri-can Jewish leaders to jeopardize the critical support for Israel and the fight against radical Islam and growing anti-Semitism that evangelicals bring to the table.[12]

In February 2006 Eckstein welcomed the opening of new Israeli tourism offices in Rio de Janeiro and Atlanta. He congratulated the Israeli tourism ministry for doing so as part of efforts to increase tourism among evangelical Christians.[13]

Eckstein has repeatedly denied that IFCJ donors are motivated significantly by a desire to see Jews convert to Christianity:

We did a study, a formal study, that found that the primary reason for (evangelicals') support is the shared values of freedom and democracy that Israel has...[14]

Eckstein has stated that he believes that the US-led 'War on Terror' made it easier to develop links between Jews and Christian evangelicals in the United States:

After 9/11 and the intifada and the Lebanon war and Iran, the American Jewish community has learned that these people are friendly to Israel and there's no quid pro quo... So the majority of Jews have bracketed the issues that are divisive because the survival of Israel is at stake.[15]

Eckstein was friends with late Jerry Falwell, televangelist and conservative political commentator. In an interview with CNN in 2007 Eckstein described Falwell as:

A consistent friend of Israel, friend of the Jewish people, someone who stands up, who stood up for morality, for ethics, for values, for the shared values. He is going to be missed, and I think even the Jewish -- the liberal Jewish community today realizes that he and the evangelical movement are our -- amongst our best friends. And we will miss him. But I think he imparted that value of -- both in terms of solidarity with Israel, the battle against world terrorism.[16]

Eckstein represented the State of Israel at Falwell's funeral in May 2007.[17]

Lebanon War

During the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon Eckstein described the motivation of the IFCJ's evangelical supporters:

They support Israel and in this case they see Israel's battle with Hizbullah as part of the American- Western fight against radical Islam...


Eckstein is strongly opposed to Iran and has claimed that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel and more generally:

Our civilization depends on the united front that can be forged between jews and christians... we see the president of Iran, calling for wiping out the state of Israel, saying that the holicaust (sic) never occurred, and developing the missiles to bring about that god forbid... I believe not only is Israel existentially threatened, but all western civilizations.[18]

He claimed in January 2006 that missiles paraded by the Iranian army in Tehran beared the legends 'Kill the Jews' and 'Kill the Crusaders'.[19]

Eckstein has compared Iran to Nazi Germany:

Is this not similar to the situation in Nazi Germany in the late '30s, where they (Jews) also felt they could weather the storm?[20]

On another occasion Eckstein remarked:

Many of the Jews there think that this too will pass, meaning Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. But our feeling is that this is very similar to the situation of Jews in Germany in the 1930s. By the time they realize it's not going to blow over, it'll be too late...[21]

Eckstein has also compared the situation of the roughly 25,000 Jews living in Iran to that of Jews in Nazi Germany:

While the historical circumstances may be different, the parallels are obvious. ... Adolph Hitler pub-licly identified Jews as uniquely evil and placed upon them primary responsibility for the ills affecting German society at the time.[22]

Jonathan Pollard

In 2011 Eckstein reportedly wrote a letter on behalf of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. In the letter Eckstein described Pollard's life sentence as 'severely unbalanced' and asked president Barak Obama to extend his 'presidential mercy' to Pollard.[23]



  1. Peggy Cidor, 'Holier than thou?', Jerusalem Post, 1 August 2008
  2. Sam Sokol, 'A new year for the IFCJ', Jerusalem Post, 24 September 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 IFCJ Website Rabbi Yechiel Z. Eckstein. Accessed 4 February 2015.
  4. Staff, 'Oklahomans share role Graham plays in their lives', The Daily Oklahoman, 23 March 2013
  5. Staff, 'Rabbi Yechiel Z. Eckstein honored with Jerusalem Post Award, Jerusalem Post, 8 April 2014
  6. Christine Cox, 'Passionate pragmatist speaks out; Rabbi defends coalition of Jews and evangelicals, South Bend Tribune, 3 August 2006
  7. Sam Sokol, 'JDC honors Yechiel Eckstein. Founder of interfaith fellowship has done 'so much for world's vulnerable Jews, Jerusalem Post, 21 May 2014
  8. Staff, 'New Year Blues', Mideast Mirror, 26 September 2015
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sam Sokol, 'Gathering Evangelical support for Israel', Jerusalem Post, 11 December 2014
  10. Lidar Grave-Lazi, 'Survey finds poverty conditions growing worse. IFCJ report shows 95% of poor pessimistic about future', Jerusalem Post, 27 November 2014
  11. Isi Leibler, 'An end to Jewish life in the Diaspora?', Jerusalem Post, 4 November 2013
  12. Hilary Leila Krieger, 'Hoenlein: Sentence given to Franklin 'disturbing, Jerusalem Post, 23 January 2006
  13. Hilary Leila Krieger, 'S. America gets Israel tourism office', Associated Press International, 28 February 2006
  14. Bill Berkowitz, 'U.S.-ISRAEL: A CRISIS OF FAITH OVER CHRISTIAN EVANGELICALS' HELP', IPS - Inter Press Service, 8 September 2006
  15. Roger Cohen, 'Gaining political clout of biblical proportions?; Globalist', International Herald Tribune, 10 February 2007
  16. Tony Harris, Heidi Collins, Allan Chernoff, Barbara Starr, Brianna Keilar, Chris Lawrence, Rob Marciano, Chad Myers, Veronica de la Cruz, 'Wildfire in Ocean County, New Jersey; Pentagon Identifies Soldiers Killed or Missing in Ambush; Remembering Jerry Falwell', CNN, 16 May 2007
  17. Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post Staff, Etgar Lefkovits, Judy Siegel, 'News in brief', Jerusalem Post, 21 May 2007
  18. Yechiel Eckstein, 'SHOW: Five Thirty 5:30 PM ABC', Global Broadcast Database - English, 29 January 2006
  19. Colleen Slevin, 'Orthodox rabbi meets with evangelicals in Colorado Springs', Associated Press International, 30 January 2006
  20. Regan E. Doherty, 'Christians Bring Iranian Jews to Israel', Associated Press Online, 22 October 2007
  21. Rory Kress, 'Iranian Jews Secretly Escape to Israel', Associated Press Online, 25 December 2007
  22. Bill Berkowitz, 'U.S.: HIGH-PROFILE JEWISH AGENCY EMBRACES CHRISTIAN ZIONISTS', IPS - Inter Press Service, 3 January 2008
  23. Gil Hoffman, 'Former White House lawyer: Keeping Pollard in jail is a 'miscarriage of justice' ', Jerusalem Post, 6 February 2011