Rabbi Yechiel Zvi Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, passed away at the age of 67.
The fellowship under its chairmanship raises about half a billion shekels each year for the State of Israel and for various Jewish causes.
Eckstein was on the Board of Governors of the Joint Distribution Committee, Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Agency. He wrote seven books, mainly on Christian-Jewish relations.
Rabbi Eckstein was active in efforts promoting Jewish immigration from Ukraine and other countries.
He was born in Canada, and as a teenager studied at the MTA, the yeshiva High School of Yeshiva University. He then studied at the Kerem B'Yavneh yeshiva and then returned to Yeshiva University, where he was ordained by Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik and completed his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. He served as a lecturer at Columbia University.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews established by Rabbi Eckstein raises funds mainly from Evangelical Christians who support Zionism in the United States and around the world, and some from donations from Jews around the world and Israelis. Since its establishment, the fellowship has raised more than 1.3 billion shekels for a variety of social projects in Israel.
The Tzohar Rabbinical Organization expressed its sadness over the untimely passing of Rabbi Eckstein.
"Rabbi Eckstein was a visionary whose leadership enabled tremendous support for the state and people of Israel and his actions bettered the lives of countless people all over the country. Throughout his life, he worked to bring pride to Jewish practice and Zionism while acting as an ambassador for Judaism throughout the world. May his memory always serve as a source of blessing to his family and the entire Jewish people."
Dr. Jürgen Bühler, president of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, said, "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 great blessings to countless Israelis.
"The ICEJ extend its most sincere condolences to the Eckstein family. His daughter, Yael, and the Fellowship he founded can be proud of the legacy he has now left in their hands."
Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, said, "The Jewish People have lost Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a leader who worked tirelessly on their behalf. I worked with Rabbi Eckstein on social welfare, diaspora and Aliyah."
"My deep condolences to his family and the entire International Fellowship of Christians and Jews."
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said, "So sad to learn of the passing of my friend Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. A prodigious philanthropist and an inspirational leader who did so much to unite Christians and Jews around common values. May his memory be blessed."