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Evangelical Funding Heats Up: Rival Groups to Reveal Names

IFCJ threatens to list hareidi organizations that receive Christian funding – and “Jewish Israel” says it will publicize those who do not.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 10/25/2009, 1:33 PM / Last Update: 10/25/2009, 9:55 AM

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Following the recent ban by hareidi-religious authority Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv on receiving evangelical Christian funding, the Christian organization in question threatens to reveal the names of hareidi-religious organizations that receive such funding. In response, “Jewish Israel” says it will publicize the Jewish charity organizations and public institutions that do not.

A month ago, a religious ban was re-released forbidding the acceptance of money or other benefits from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ). The original edict was issued seven years ago by the Beth Din Tzedek [Badatz] of the Edah HaHareidit (supreme hareidi-religious court) in Jerusalem. It was released again last month with the added signature of the current head of the Edah HaHareidit, Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss, as well as that of hareidi leader Rabbi Elyashiv.

To his signature, Rabbi Weiss added in handwriting, “The words of the [above] righteous Torah giants [of] the Badatz are very clear, as they explained their reasons and considerations, and Heaven forbid that one should violate their words.” Rabbi Elyashiv wrote simply, "I join the above-mentioned," and signed his name.

"That simple signature was very momentous," former Jerusalem City Council member Mina Fenton told Israel National News. "The joining together of the hareidi-yeshiva world with the Eida HaHareidit is very significant for the hareidi world, and should have a large impact." Other leading rabbis, such as the late Rabbi Avraham Shapira, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, have also warned against receiving monies from the IFCJ.

Idol Worship, Missionizing, Etc.
The original edict lists three reasons why taking money from the IFCJ is forbidden, including its being an offshoot of idol worship in that the Christian god is aggrandized, as well as its aiding of and paving the way for future missionary activity. 

Eckstein Threatens Back
The IFCJ, which raises money for Jewish and Israeli causes among evangelical Christians, is headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of New York. A former Hassidic music public singer, Rabbi Eckstein received Orthodox Rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University in New York.  He told The Jerusalem Post that in light of the new ruling, he plans to expose his organization’s list of hareidi-religious beneficiaries in order “to make sure everything is perfectly transparent.”

"If they don't want funds, they don't have to accept them,” Eckstein said. “But we are not going to go along with a situation in which hareidi institutions accept them under the table without publicizing where they get their funding.”

This will leave many institutions in a bind – not regarding their past acceptance of money, which was forbidden by Rabbi Elyashiv only now, but regarding their future course of action.

"Jewish Israel" Counter-Threatens
In response, an anti-missionary organization named Jewish Israel, which strives to reduce Jesus-based influence in Israel, has raised the gauntlet – and says it will grant publicity to Jewish groups that refuse to accept IFCJ funding. “As a public service,” the group writes, “Jewish Israel will be happy to post the names and contact information of those charity organizations and projects which are not taking funding from IFCJ or other Christian institutions.”

“Jewish Israel can attest to the fact that more and more Torah true authorities are expressing utter alarm at the degree of Christian influence in Israel,” the organization states on its website, “and they are beginning to take a firm stand and calling for consensus and accountability. Jewish Israel continues to hold weekly meetings with rabbinic leaders in Israel, and we are regularly updating our halakhic [Jewish legal] section as opinions and rulings are made available.”

According to the IFCJ website, Rabbi Eckstein "is pleased to recommend" a Haggadah for Passover written for Christians. The site says, “Co-authored by a rabbi and a pastor, this book offers the unique opportunity to experience an authentic Jewish Passover Seder from a distinctively Christian perspective.”  Other books similarly endorsed on the site are described as being for "Christians who want to understand their religion's Jewish roots" and the like.