Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, got the thanks from the organized Jewish world that he’s been looking for on Monday at a reception at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly.
Eckstein, who started the fellowship 25 years ago, has raised some $500 million from Evangelical Christians to give to impoverished Jews, Jewish groups and Zionist causes.
The relationship has often been one of contention as the Jewish community was long wary of receiving Christian money, especially for Zionist purposes. But
Eckstein has become a strategic partner of both of the federation system’s overseas arms, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
The fellowship has long been a donor to the JDC, giving the organization $9 million last year and $7 million this year, according to the JDC’s executive vice president, Steve Schwager. Eckstein sits on the major boards of the JDC.
Most recently, Eckstein pledged $45 million to the Jewish Agency, in exchange for a seat on the agency’s highest governing committee.
In May that deal almost fell apart because Eckstein felt that the agency was not honoring him as a full partner; in particular, he was upset that the fellowship was not listed on JAFI’s letterhead along with its primary funding organizations, the UJC and Keren Hayesod, which raises money form Europe and Canada for the agency.
But Monday, Eckstein said that he finally felt “vindicated” and officially accepted by the organized Jewish community.
The reception, which included fine fare and a rolling video of Eckstein’s work in the FSU and overseas, was paid for by the UJC, JDC, the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod. Top lay and professionals from each organization thanked Eckstein publicly for his financial help, including Schwager and the Jewish Agency’s chairman, Zeev Bielski, and the UJC’s president and CEO Howard Rieger.
Eckstein, in turn, gave his thanks.
Video should be up shortly.