JERUSALEM, Israel — Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the beloved founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, suddenly passed away Wednesday. He was 67 years old.
The charismatic rabbi leaves behind a long legacy of philanthropy and robust interfaith partnerships between Christians and the Jewish people.
When Rabbi Eckstein founded The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1983, his goal was simple: to build bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews, and to show Christians how to reestablish their biblical connection to the land of Israel and the Jewish people.
For more than three decades, IFCJ has far exceeded expectations. Not only is the organization a leader in Jewish-Christian relations, but it has also helped thousands of Jews around the world escape poverty and anti-Semitism and return to their biblical homeland — Israel.
The organization has funded humanitarian assistance that has touched millions of Jews worldwide. IFCJ raises about $140 million a year, making it one of Israel's largest humanitarian organizations.
Overall, the organization has raised more than $1.4 billion, mostly from evangelical Christians.
Those funds go towards Holocaust survivors, social programs, hospitals, and even bomb shelters for those affected by conflicts with Hamas.
Eckstein served on the faculties of Columbia University, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Seminary. He also held positions on the executive board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.
He was named several times on Newsweek's list of the 50 Most Influential Rabbis in the US and is considered one of the most influential Jews in the world.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, in a 2015 interview on The 700 Club.
Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog responded to news of Eckstein's death saying, "The Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora (have) lost this evening a leader who worked for us for many years through his wonderful life's work which he established with his own hands."
CBN Founder Pat Robertson honored Eckstein, saying,
"Words cannot express the sorrow I feel at the untimely passing of my dear friend, Yechiel Eckstein. Yechiel has been a pioneer and champion of Christian/Jewish relations for decades. We have worked together on many projects, and the success of his organization attests to compassion that he feels for his fellow Jews who suffer in poverty in various parts of the world. I am sure I echo the words of our Lord, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.'"
And Dr. Jürgen Bühler, president of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, issued the following statement:
"The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem mourns the sudden passing of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and pays tribute to this unique pioneer and visionary of closer Jewish-Christian relations. Rabbi Eckstein foresaw, like few other Jewish leaders did, the strategic importance to Israel and the Jewish people of forging ties with the global Evangelical community. The generous aid that he gathered from Christians around the world brought vital assistance and tremendous blessings to countless Israelis. The ICEJ extends our most sincere condolences to the Eckstein family. His daughter, Yael, and the Fellowship he founded can be proud of the great legacy of kindness and caring which he has left in their hands."
Eckstein's funeral will take place Thursday in Jerusalem. More details will follow.