Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein denied a report suggesting that some money raised by his interfaith group was used to missionize Jews.
The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported Monday that Eckstein’s organization, the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, gave $10,000 in 2007 to an evangelical group in Jerusalem that proselytizes Israeli Jews. It also reported that the fellowship sent money to a Protestant group in Massachusetts that Ma’ariv called “a controversial Christian cult.”
Eckstein, the fellowship’s founder and president who has raised tens of millions of dollars for Israel from American evangelicals, insisted the story misrepresented the facts. He said the report was simply a continuation of a smear campaign against him and the information was fed to the newspaper by a source with an axe to grind.
Eckstein, speaking to JTA from Paris, said the fellowship used the Jerusalem group, King of Kings, to pass $10,000 to a church in Bethlehem to help provide humanitarian aid to local Christians before Christmas.
“We were informed last year about the dwindling Christian community in Bethlehem, which has been persecuted by the radical Muslims there to the point that most of them have left. And the Protestant church there and the people there needed funds for basic needs – food, clothing, medicine, heating fuel,” he said. “We didn’t hesitate to respond with a modest gift – at least for us. The only place that could deliver that was this group, King of Kings.”
As to the gift to the Massachusetts group, the Community of Christ in Orleans, Eckstein said it was a $750 donation by the fellowship to the group’s choir after canceling on an event there.