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Pass A Legacy of Faith To Your Children

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Author, latest Generation to Generation (ICFJ, 2020)

President and CEO, IFCJ

Contributor to The Jerusalem Post, Fox News, The Christian Post, and The Times of Israel  

Radio host, Holy Land Moments, airing five times per week on 1500 radio stations

Called one of “Israel’s 100 Most Influential Women” by Makor Rishon newspaper

Studied at Torat Chesed Seminary and Hebrew University, Israel; Queens College, NY

Married to Amichai, four children: Meyora, Liam, Sapir, and Shimmy

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HELPING DURING COVID-19 

In response to the coronavirus’ impact in Israel, The Fellowship has established a $5 million emergency fund by appealing to thousands of donors from all over the world.  While the organization already had the ability to provide emergency food and basic needs to 15 thousand elderly Jews, the emergency fund will allow them to reach an additional 15 thousand people in Israel’s elderly population over the age of 75 with food, hand sanitizer, and other essentials.  Some of those people are Holocaust survivors.  “What a tragedy it would be for someone to survive the Holocaust only to die of this virus,“ Yael says.  In addition to meeting individual needs,  The Fellowship approved $2 million in special grants to 15 hospitals for respiratory equipment and other lifesaving machinery. Also, The Fellowshippurchased 20 special testing devices for Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical response organization. They will help the staff test patients and reduce the burden on hospitals, preventing unnecessary contact between coronavirus patients and their surroundings.

FOLLOWING IN HER FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS

When Yael’s beloved father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, passed away on February 6, 2019, she became the president and CEO of IFCJ, or The Fellowship, the organization he founded in 1983.  The plan had been clear to all that she would take the organization’s reins of leadership one day, and not long before his passing, Rabbi Eckstein had prayed a blessing over his daughter. When that passing came unexpectedly, she was thrust into the role without any transition period.  She says despite her devastation, it  became clear that he’d been preparing her all her life.  Yael had worked alongside her father at The Fellowship since 2005, taking on increasing responsibility.  That’s the year she and her husband decided to move their family to Israel, known as “making aliyah.”   Even through a year of mourning their founder, she says The Fellowship has carried on and done very well.  The organization’s work is comprised for four main branches:  Guardians of Israel, which delivers food, medicine, and essentials to needy Jews in Israel, including Holocaust survivors, and provides security through their bomb shelter renovation project; Isaiah 58, which supplies food, medical care, housing, and basic assistance to needy Jews in the former Soviet Union; On Wings of Eagles, which assists Jews immigrating to Israel from around the globe to escape poverty and anti-Semitism; and Stand for Israel, which mobilizes Christian support for Israel though education and understanding.  Since its inception in 1983, The Fellowship has given $1.5 billion of aid to Jews in more than 58 countries.

LEAVING A LEGACY OF FAITH 

Yael has been meditating more deeply than ever on the way her father and mother raised her, and how crucial it is for parents to pass on a legacy of faith to their children.  She quotes Billy Graham:  “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”   In the Jewish faith, this is expressed in the phrase, “l’dor v’dor”, which means “from generation to generation.”  She says her parents did this quite deliberately by keeping 

the traditions of the Jewish holy days, explaining what each one meant, and encouraging their three daughters to ask lots of questions.  Yael illustrates her point through the  example of Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, who was assigned the job of finding the many Jewish orphans in Eurpope after the Holocaust.  In 1946, he went to a monastery which had protected dozens of Jewish children, and asked the Reverend Mother which ones were Jewish.  She told him there was no way to tell.  He then asked her to gather all the children in the large hall, and proceeded to cry in a loud voice the “Shema Prayer,” which observant Jewish parents teach their children.  Immediately, dozens of children in the hall rushed toward him, yelling “Mama, Papa,” with tears in their eyes.  

RECOGNIZING COMMON ROOTS  

In her book, Yael explains eight Jewish holy days, how her parents observed them, how she continues to do so with her own family, and the value that each one reinforces.  For each holy day, she explains the corresponding teaching in the New Testament, and offers discussion questions  and memory verses from both the Old and New Testaments, confirming the common values of Judaism and Christianity.  For example, Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath, from Friday evening to Saturday evening, which teaches the value of putting God first in one’s life.  “We don’t refrain from working just so that we can have a short break before we go back to the grind the next day; we rest from activity so that we can exercise our soul,” Yael elaborates.  The time is used to make God, family, and friends the priorites of life, to explore how each family member is doing, to practice hospitality, and to discuss portions of the Torah.  The corresponding New Testament Sabbath is, of course, the Lord’s Day on Sunday.  She lists the values taught by the other holy days: Passover – seeking knowledge, Shavuot – gratitude, Tisha B’av – Hope, High Holy Days – forgiveness, Sukkot – faith, Purim – courage, Tzedekah – generosity.  Her goal is for readers, especially Christians, to understand this about Judaism:  “As it says in Romans, Christians are ‘grafted on to the rich olive tree of Israel.'  I want Christians to understand the roots of their faith, and how the biblical holidays and traditions are still very much alive, relevant, and a sacred tool we can use to pass on faith to the next generation, in a meaningful and affective way.”  In terms of prayer for Israel, Yael says, “I believe Israel survives on miracles from God, and those miracles are fueled by prayers. I call prayer our 'weapon of mass destruction' – we can break down any walls and make the 'impossible' possible with prayer. Continue to pray for peace, wisdom, and that the 'cloud of glory' will continue hovering above, protecting us from our many enemies who want to destroy us.”

Guest Name / Person Interviewed or Featured in Article or Video: 
Yael Eckstein
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