It should not come as a surprise to anyone that the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews’ (IFCJ or The Fellowship) Founder and President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein is devoted to the idea of family.

The Fellowship’s mission, to help Israel’s needy - be they Holocaust Survivors, widows, orphans or lone soldiers - and to build bridges of understanding after two millennia of animosity and acrimony between the Christian and Jewish communities, seems to be driven by the concept of family. The Fellowship intuitively understands that a community - like a family - is only as strong as its weakest link.

On a more personal level, Eckstein’s family is central to the work that he does. His calling first to the rabbinate and then to the work that would see him develop ties with the Christian community that for much of its history was openly hostile to Jews and Judaism, was deeply inspired by his father’s example. For decades, Rabbi Simon Eckstein was a community rabbi both in New York and then for a quarter of a century before his retirement in 1975, in Ottawa, Canada. At the age of 91, he returned with his wife, Belle, to live in Jerusalem, the city of his birth and where he lived out the last years of his life.

One of Eckstein Senior’s lifelong missions was to bridge the gap between the older and younger generations, especially of Jews. He once quoted Rabbi Berel Wein, saying: "One of the blessings of our generation is the unique role of grandparents and great-grandparents in providing a bridge as well as a perspective: a bridge to the past and a perspective on life for the present and future.”

And the intergenerational work does not end there; Yechiel Eckstein’s daughter, Yael, is also a key figure in The Fellowship’s work. As IFCJ’s Global Executive Vice President, Yael Eckstein is intimately involved in all aspects of the programs that the organization runs. She also has a strong sense of mission: “There are not many other organizations that help Holocaust Survivors, orphans, children and families, poor elderly people, the persecuted and oppressed, soldiers and their families and victims of terrorism and war,” she said.

“In the private sector,” Eckstein continued, “one doesn’t necessarily get the feeling of helping others. At IFCJ we try to provide inspiration and we treat our employees with dignity and respect. Everyone has an opportunity to feel that responsibility and accountability to help whomever they can, and we feel lucky that through IFCJ we can achieve that.”

If one even performs a cursory search of the IFCJ website, the references to family are myriad. IFCJ understands the importance of family and is willing and able to step into the breach for those who have lost or lost contact with their family, or those like lone soldiers, who are fighting for Israel’s security away from their homes, friends and family.

The Fellowship sees it as its duty to organize visits to the lonely elderly, be they Holocaust Survivors or people who just need company. IFCJ realizes that mothers and their children - who through the dislocation of war or hardships are not able to be with their husbands and fathers - need support to be able to function as a family.

Why would The Fellowship invest so much time, money and effort in enabling Ukrainian families to make Aliyah? Why would it make a trip to Jordan to give succor to refugee Iraqi Christian families, if it was not so invested in understanding the centrality of family - even in modern life? It takes seriously the passage in Isaiah 58: 7, “It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin.”

IFCJ’s desire to bridge the gap between communities, while helping people in need, is one of the ways that it is set apart from other nonprofit organizations. It also helps that under the stewardship of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and his daughter, Yael, it possesses charismatic leadership that allows it to aim high in achieving its lofty goals.

The fact that Rabbi Yechiel and Yael Eckstein are so involved in the day-to-day running of IFCJ immediately highlights the importance that is placed on family. It helps to create an atmosphere, a sense of mission that at heart The Fellowship is concerned with helping people, because we are all connected and there is responsibility to help where we can.

Author's Bio: 

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is a non-profit organization founded in 1983 to promote understanding between Christians and Jews, and build support for Israel. Learn more about the IFCJ here:
The IFCJ was founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a leading advocate of religious freedom who has dedicated his work to building bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews. Learn more about Rabbi Eckstein here: