Yesterday the Jerusalem Post published Jewish Israel's Letter to the Editor in response to Tuesday's article, "Reaching Out", concerning Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and his organization The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
The following are excerpts from the article of statements made by Rabbi Eckstein, followed by our response:
“I have always had one red line: that I would never work with any group involved in missionary activity targeting the Jewish community,” insists Eckstein. “However, if there are groups that believed in the end of days or that all the Jewish will eventually turn to Jesus, but in the meantime they see it as their obligation to share with us a love for Israel, then that is acceptable to me. I still have my red lines today and I will never work with groups like Jews for Jesus or Messianic community."…
"…With the majority of American Jewish institutions and the Israeli government convinced, Eckstein says the last major obstacle to his success is convincing a handful of haredi rabbis here that his work is legitimate and to urge them to allow their followers to accept his organization’s charity.
“Initially our problems were in the US and not in Israel, but today it is different; there has been a backlash from haredi community and others, with specific rabbis refusing to accept financial support from us,” he says.
“It has been going on for 10 years, but over the last few years this has increased. It is only a few people, but they have a lot of influence. They have told individuals and followers not to accept our help or our donations.
“We have underestimated the power of these individuals who have devoted their lives to applying pressure on others not to work with us and not to accept our charity, even though they certainly need it.”
Eckstein claims he has attempted to meet with these leaders to explain to them that his intentions are honorable, but so far his calls have fallen on deaf ears. Now, however, with his support strong in the mainstream Jewish community and his recognition by Israeli officials at an all-time high, he is hopeful that he will be able overcome this latest in a long line of challenges to building a bridge between Jews and Christians."
Jewish Israel responded with the following letter to the editor of the Jerusalem Post:
Sir, – In your report “Reaching out,” Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein refers to rabbis, the “haredi community and others,” as being the last major obstacle to his success. Our organization, JewishIsrael.com, is one of the “others” that Eckstein refers to.
While we’ve all enjoyed good relations, assistance and benefits from gentile friends who choose to take a moral stand with the Jewish state, organizations like IFCJ put a theological/evangelical spin on those efforts – and that makes things complex.
Eckstein may claim that he “would never work with any group involved in missionary activity targeting the Jewish community,” but there is ample evidence that the Christian figures appearing in IFCJ’s promotional material (Jack Hayford, Pat Robertson, and Pat Boone) do promote missionary activity which targets Jews, and they support the growing and strengthening Christian messianic community in Israel.
As a community concerned with Torah values and spiritual continuity, we have very real concerns and questions which must be asked: Is it healthy for the Jewish state and the state of Jewish society to become utterly dependent on non- Jewish and devout Christian sources for our philanthropic needs? And should those sources be intimately involved and wield significant influence in government agencies and the private sector of Israeli society? It’s the job of our rabbinic leaders to get past the money issues and to uphold the Torah, Halacha and the unique status of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel – which includes separation from foreign worship and beliefs.
Red lines on this theologically loaded relationship are necessary and honest questions should be asked.
The “last major obstacle” that Eckstein can’t seem to overcome may simply be our need to ensure Jewish independence, integrity, unity and spiritual continuity.
Public relations director, JewishIsrael.com
Another letter to the editor
Another letter, penned by Jonathan Feldstein, which praised Yechiel Eckstein, also appeared in yesterday's JPost. Feldstein is a professional fundraiser who has worked with IFCJ in the past.
He feels, "It’s a great shame that he [Eckstein] has to go out of his way to convince skeptics in order to help them receive financial support."