Yechiel Eckstein

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Yechiel Eckstein
RYE head shot at 25th Anniv 9-22-08 (84).jpg
Born (1951-07-11) July 11, 1951 (age 66) [1]
Manhattan, New York, U.S.[2]
Residence Jerusalem, Israel & Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Nationality American / Canadian
Citizenship Canadian, American and Israeli
Alma mater

Yeshiva University

Columbia University
Occupation Rabbi, Founder and President
Organization International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
Known for Founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
Title Rabbi
Spouse(s) Joelle Eckstein

Rabbi Dr. Sy Eckstein

Belle Eckstein
Awards Raoul Wallenberg Award

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein (born July 11, 1951) is an Israeli American rabbi and the founder and current president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which is headquartered in Chicago and Jerusalem.[3]


Born in Manhattan, New York, Eckstein is the son of the late Rabbi and psychologist Dr. Simon "Sy" (born December 4, 1919-died September 24, 2016)[2] and wife Belle Eckstein of Tampa, Florida.[3] In 1952, when he was just a year old, Eckstein moved with his family to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, as his father accepted a newly created rabbinic post as the Chief Rabbi of Ottawa, where he would be raised, as his father would oversee four synagougues, two which would eventually merge to form the Congregation Beth Shalom. Eckstein is married to Joelle and lives in Jerusalem. They both have three daughters and five grandchildren.[4]


Eckstein served on faculty at Columbia University, the Chicago Theological Seminary and the Northern Baptist Seminary.

The Fellowship[edit]

After serving as national co-director of inter-religious affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, Eckstein founded the Holyland Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1983 to help Christians and Jews work together on projects promoting the safety and security of Jews in Israel and around the world. The organization was renamed the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1991.[5]

When Eckstein started the Fellowship, he had no salary, no medical benefits and a pregnant wife. He worked part-time as a rabbi. In the early years, he received the majority of his donations from fellow Jews. Often these gifts were grudgingly given. "I don't know what you're doing, and I don't know if I like what you're doing," one Jewish philanthropist from Chicago said to him, but he nonetheless donated.[6] But from the mid-1990s, he became increasingly popular with Evangelical Christians, leading to rapidly increasing growth of the charity each year. By 2003, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was listed as the second largest charity in Israel.[6]

Criticism and response[edit]

A July 24, 2005, New York Times magazine article by Zev Chafets notes: "For decades, Orthodox critics have accused Eckstein of being a closet Christian; in addition, The Jewish Observer, the house magazine of the ultra-Orthodox organization Agudath Israel of America, called Eckstein's work "a curse." The Times article also states, "Many of the Jews who once derided Eckstein for depending on the kindness of strangers now want to be his best friends."[6]

As Eckstein grew increasingly powerful, he attracted criticism from parts of the Orthodox community from which he came and whose good opinion he covets.[6]

"Even those who applaud Eckstein's philanthropies are sometimes skeptical about what he calls his ‘ministry.’ For Jews, who are used to seeing themselves as victims of bigotry, the saga of Yechiel Eckstein raises uncomfortable questions about who loves – and who hates – whom."[6]

According to the Times article, Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League national director, remains one of Eckstein's most prominent critics, accusing the rabbi of "selling the dignity of the Jewish people" by asking for donations, saying: "We're not a poor people". Eckstein has no apologies for his support from Christians, insisting he does more than fund-raising: "It's a ministry". He also states: "There are all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories out there about how evangelicals only support Israel to bring on Armageddon or because they want to convert the Jews to Christianity. That's just not true. You saw the people there today... They're not religious fanatics, and they don't have ulterior motives. These are good, religious people who love Israel and want to help. What's the matter with that? .[6]

Personal life[edit]

Eckstein holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel, having become an Israeli citizen in 2002.[6]

He has also recorded six CDs as a Hasidic singer. He has been a member of Kol Salonika,[7] The Y'DID Singers[8] and The Rabbis' Sons.[9]

In June 2010 he was inducted by Newsweek magazine in to its list of the Top 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America.[10] In July 2010, Rabbi Eckstein was honored by Hadassah with its first Man of Distinction award.[11] In 2014, he was awarded the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Award by the JDC,[12] and he was also listed in the Jerusalem Post's Top 50 Most Influential Jews of 2014 and 2015.


Eckstein is the author of seven texts:[13]

  1. What You Should Know About Jews and Judaism, ISBN 0-8499-0356-4 (May 1984)
  2. Understanding Evangelicals: A Guide for the Jewish Community (1992)
  3. Ask the Rabbi (1990)
  4. Five Questions Most Frequently Asked About Jews and Judaism (1990)
  5. How Firm a Foundation: A Gift of Jewish Wisdom For Christians and Jews, ISBN 1-55725-189-4 (Oct 1997)
  6. The Journey Home, ISBN 0-9708188-0-7 (May 2001)
  7. The One Year Holy Land Moments Devotional, ISBN 978-1414370217 (August 2013)


  1. ^ Birth results via
  2. ^ a b "Rabbi Simon Eckstein, Father of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, passes away at 96". Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Profiles in Giving", Heartbeat: The American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Spring 2010
  4. ^ "Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein". International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. June 20, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2011. 
  5. ^ "About Us". International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Chafets, Zev (July 24, 2005). "The Rabbi Who Loved Evangelicals (and Vice Versa)". New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2010. 
  7. ^ Kol Salonika (vol. 1) The Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive
  8. ^ The Y'DID Singers The Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive
  9. ^ The Rabbis Sing The Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive
  10. ^ The Fifty Most Influential Rabbis in America Newsweek 6/28/2010
  11. ^ Rabbi Eckstein: Our ‘Man of Distinction,’ Hadassah Convention Daily
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ "About the Rabbi". International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. 

External links[edit]