'Vindicated' Eckstein finally gets official appreciation from Jewish organizations

Rabbi finally gets official appreciation from Jewish organizations.

eckstein 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
eckstein 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, got the thanks he's been looking for from the organized Jewish world 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 has long been 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 $9m. last year and $7m. 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 $45m. 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 from Europe and Canada for the agency. But Monday, Eckstein said 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 professionals from each organization thanked Eckstein publicly for his financial help, including Schwager, Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski and UJC President and CEO Howard Rieger. Eckstein, in turn, gave his thanks.