Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the IFCJ, visiting residents in the south last week..
(photo credit: Oren Nahshon)
Jewish charities don’t have the right priorities, International Fellowship of Christian and Jews president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein charged on Wednesday.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Eckstein said that mainstream Jewish philanthropy was not adequately addressing issues such as the security of Jewish institutions in vulnerable countries, the welfare of Holocaust survivors in both Israel and the Diaspora, and bringing Jewish Ukrainian refugees to Israel.
He also criticized such charities for having excluded the IFCJ from public collaboration with them.
“We have a rise in anti-Semitism around the world, we have Jewish refugees [in Ukraine] who want to flee to Israel, you have Holocaust survivors in the hundreds of thousands, and I’m not even talking about Israel yet,” said Eckstein.
“This is about [the Jewish concept of] ‘all of the people of Israel being responsible for one another.’ There is a need for food, medicine and heating for Holocaust survivors in Moldova and Ukraine in the last years of their life.”
He leveled particularly heavy criticism at Jewish organizations in the US for failing to deal with these problems.
“Where is the wealthiest Jewish community in the history of the world to meet these basic needs of their brethren around the world? Why is it us who are providing security to Jewish institutions around the world?” the rabbi asked, describing the situation as “shameful.”
The IFCJ, a philanthropic organization that provides money to Israel and Jews around the world, raises more than $140 million per year, mostly from Christian Evangelicals in the US and Canada. It has raised close to $1.25 billion since it was founded in 1983.
Eckstein said that in light of increased worldwide threats to Jewish institutions and tourist attractions, his organization had spent NIS 6.5m. to install and upgrade security systems in dozens of high-risk Jewish destinations throughout Europe, Asia, and Central and South America.
In addition, the IFCJ is providing vouchers to 44,000 needy children and families throughout Israel for Rosh Hashana, enabling them to purchase food and clothing from supermarkets Shufersal and Mega and from the Fox retail outlet.
The vouchers are being distributed to Jewish, Arab, Druse and Beduin families alike, and the IFCJ has spent a total of $3m. on its holiday voucher initiative this year.
The organization said it had to increase its annual New Year Assistance Campaign “to offset a difficult fiscal year which pushed an additional 20,000 families and 44,000 children below the poverty line,” something it described as the result of “deep cuts to Israel’s welfare institutions and subsidies for needy families.”
“For years now, Israel’s poor have been sliding deeper and deeper into poverty as the gap between rich and poor widens,” said Eckstein.
“This infuriating reality is especially acute during the holiday season, when many families are simply unable to celebrate with dignity or to purchase food for their holiday meals.”
He declared that “the time has come for Israel to implement the recommendations of the Committee to Fight Poverty in Israel – which the government itself appointed [last year] – and to take its place at the head of developed nations working toward social and economic justice for its citizens, not at its tail-end.”