Rabbi Yechiel Z. Eckstein
Founder and President, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews®
Goodwill Ambassador, State of Israel
Rabbi Yechiel Z. Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, has devoted more than 35 years to building bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews and broad support for the State of Israel. He is recognized as the world’s leading Jewish authority on evangelical Christians.
Rabbi Eckstein received Orthodox Rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University in New York. He holds master’s degrees from Yeshiva University and Columbia University, where he also completed studies for his doctorate. Rabbi Eckstein has served on the faculties of Columbia University, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Seminary. He currently serves on the executive committee of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Working Around The World
Prior to founding The Fellowship, Rabbi Eckstein was national co-director of interreligious affairs for the Anti-Defamation League. In that role, he broke new ground by forging partnerships with evangelical Christians. Recognizing the potential of these strong interfaith relationships, in 1983 he established The Fellowship to help Christians and Jews begin a dialogue and work together on projects promoting the security and well-being of Jews in Israel and around the world.
The Fellowship has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to programs helping Jews from the former Soviet Union, India, Ethiopia, and elsewhere resettle in Israel, as well as funding programs that fight poverty in Israel and help impoverished elderly Jews and orphans in the former Soviet Union.
Championing Judeo-Christian Values and Religious Freedom
In 1995, Rabbi Eckstein opened the Center for Jewish and Christian Values in Washington, D.C., a sister organization to The Fellowship aimed at bringing Christians and Jews together to build a more civil, moral society. The Center, which closed in 1999, included among its leadership such prominent political figures as Senators Joseph Lieberman, Dan Coates, and Sam Brownback.
Rabbi Eckstein is a leading advocate of religious freedom worldwide. He has traveled to China to work for the freedom of imprisoned Christian pastors and to press the cause of religious liberty. In 1995, he brought the first Torah scroll to Uzbekistan since the Communist regime banned religious practice there.
Taking a Stand for Israel
In 2002 Rabbi Eckstein launched Stand for Israel, a Fellowship program mobilizing U.S. Christian backing for Israel. Stand for Israel’s mission is to inform, equip and mobilize individuals and churches to support the State of Israel through prayer and grass roots advocacy initiatives The Stand for Israel website includes news about Israel, a blog, information about Israel-related issues, commentary by the rabbi, and advocacy tools.
In Israel, Rabbi Eckstein has served as informal adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and, in 2005, was appointed Goodwill Ambassador of the State of Israel, with special emphasis on Israel’s relationships with evangelical communities in Latin America. He has worked in building support for Israel throughout Europe and Latin America.
The Rabbi's Books
Fostering Interfaith Dialogue
Rabbi Eckstein was the catalyst behind the first Evangelical-Jewish Leadership Conference, as well as its coordinator, and has served as speaker at the National Day of Prayer. He has opened sessions of the U.S. Senate with prayer, conducted a Passover Seder for U.S. senators, and delivered the benediction with President Bill Clinton at the dedication ceremony for the memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. the first rabbi in history to deliver the benediction at the dedication of a presidential memorial.
He has written columns and been featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, U.S. News and World Report, The Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and People magazine. He is a frequent guest on television and radio programs nationwide, including CNBC’s “Hardball” and PBS’ “Now with Bill Moyers.”
Rabbi Eckstein is the author of six highly acclaimed books: “What You Should Know About Jews and Judaism,” “Understanding Evangelicals: A Guide for the Jewish Community,” “Ask the Rabbi,” “Five Questions Most Frequently Asked About Jews and Judaism,” “How Firm a Foundation: A Gift of Jewish Wisdom For Christians and Jews,” and “The Journey Home.” In addition, he is a renowned Israeli Hasidic singer and has recorded six CDs. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he performed for Israeli troops on the Syrian front and in hospitals.
In 2010, The Fellowship launched Holy Land Moments, a daily radio broadcast featuring Rabbi Eckstein’s insights into Jewish belief and faith, Israel, and the Jewish roots of Christianity. The show airs in more than 150 stations in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., New Zealand, Guam, and Africa, and in 2011 was picked up by the largest Christian radio network in Australia. A Spanish-language radio program, Preguntele al Rabino (Ask the Rabbi), continues to air in nearly every Spanish-speaking country in Latin America, as well as in other Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world.
In May 2010, Israel’s Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog presented Rabbi Eckstein with the government of Israel’s first-ever Award for Special Contribution to the Welfare of the People of Israel. A month later, Newsweek magazine included him at number 21 on their list of the 50 Most Influential Rabbis in the U.S.; he again appeared on the list, this time at number 18, in 2011. In December 2010, he received the Man of the Year award from the Federation of Jewish Communities in the CIS during a special ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. The following year, he was appointed as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Committee on Aliyah and Rescue.
In addition to these honors, Rabbi Eckstein has received the Economic Forum’s prestigious Jerusalem Prize, the Community Service Leadership Award from Yeshiva College, the Colel Chabad Global Impact award, and more than 50 other awards from various groups, including the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, the JDC (Joint), the Jewish Agency for Israel, Chamah, Colel Chabad, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Hadassah, Shaare Zedek, Israel’s Union of Local Authorities, and many other organizations.
Rabbi Eckstein is married to Joelle, lives in Jerusalem, and has three daughters and five grandchildren.
Last revised July 31, 2012