Eckstein makes interesting PR move

Interesting development at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews: The group has eliminated the position of communications director, responsible for media relations and PR.

This is not a budget-related layoff, according to a source close to the situation. The IFCJ, which raises millions of dollars a year from the evangelical community to support Israel and Jewish causes, has hired an outside PR firm to handle its media needs.

The IFCJ’s founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who has a television show dedicated to talking with the evangelical community about Israel and spends what must be millions on television advertising, is known in the industry to have a voracious media appetite. When he sat down at the JTA offices with the Fundermentalist in May, he was actually in town to hire the firm.

When asked about his focus on the PR side of things, Eckstein said that his goal is not just to get the evangelical community to support Israel, but also to get the Jewish community to accept and appreciate the help received from conservative Christians. In order to do that, he needs publicity for IFCJ’s efforts, he said.

Eckstein’s organization has become a major donor to both the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel – and he has placed a premium on making those organizations publicize his support. The JDC retained the services of the publicists at 5wPR to deal exclusively with Eckstein-related issues, according to an IFCJ source. They did so after JDC, to paraphrase, had some trouble last year in adequately getting the word out about his JDC projects, the source said. Over at the Jewish Agency, a strategic partnership that Eckstein struck up with the organization in which he agreed to give $45 million to JAFI, is now in peril. The reason: Because the Jewish Agency is not promoting his organization’s involvement as much as Eckstein would like. Among other issues, the agency has does not list the IFCJ on its letterhead as a partner, as it does with its longtime backers, the United Jewish Communities and Keren Hayesod.

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