Eckstein downplays possible presidential run

Rabbi's organization raises millions of dollars annually for Israel; associates say others approached him to run.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Could Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein go from raising money for Israel to leading the Jewish state? Various media outlets in Israel mentioned him as a candidate over the weekend in elections that are expected to take place in June to replace President Shimon Peres when his term ends July 27.

Eckstein’s International Fellowship of Christians and Jews raises more than $100,000,000 annually, the bulk of which goes to helping impoverished people in Israel. The organization’s mission is to promote understanding between Jews and Christians and build broad support for Israel and other shared concerns. Its vision is that Jews and Christians will reverse their 2,000- year history of discord and replace it with a relationship marked by dialogue, respect and cooperation.
While the President’s Residence could be a good place to further those goals, Eckstein’s associates downplayed the reports on Sunday.
“Over the last few days, there were a number of overtures to Rabbi Eckstein from public figures who said they would recommend him as a candidate,” a source at the fellowship said.
“But it’s not more than that.”
Eckstein’s name is one of many that has been circulating in recent weeks as possible candidates.
But as of Sunday the only definite candidates were Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and Novel Prize-winning chemist Dan Shechtman, who announced Friday that he was joining the race.
Since then, more than 4,300 people endorsed an online petition supporting Shechtman’s candidacy, while 3,800 people clicked “like” on his Facebook page. But Shechtman admitted Sunday that he had not received a single phone call from the voting body, the 120 members of Knesset.
“I intend to meet with all 120 MKs, talk to them face-to-face and tell them why I’m running,” he told Channel 1. “No politician has called me. But I have received lots of calls from people who have volunteered.”