JERUSALEM — Yael Eckstein, the CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), has devoted the majority of her adult life creating meaningful and relevant bridges between the Christian community and Israel. And this week she was honored for her work by being named on the Jerusalem Post’s annual list of the 50 most influential Jews in the world.
Her father, the late Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founded The Fellowship 37 years ago, and she has served as President and CEO since his passing in 2019.
“There was a lot of pressure on me to fill his shoes,” she recalled. “But I decided that he had filled his shoes and I will fill mine.”
She knew, taking over, that most organizations that pass to the second generation usually fail – especially Christian ministries. In her first year, Eckstein lost The Fellowship’s long-standing chief operating officer and its director-general. She put together a budget in hopes of just breaking even but surprised even herself.
“We had expected to raise $123 million that year,” Eckstein said. “We closed with $173 million. And this year, two years later, we have doubled our donor base from around 300,000 donors to 627,000. We have almost doubled our budget, too, which means we have helped almost double the amount of people.”
And she did all this in the shadow of COVID-19, during a war with Hamas, and a lot of other surprises.
“My goal was to be focused, strategic, intentional and well-planned, yet agile enough that at the drop of a dime we were able to be on the ground, meeting needs,” Eckstein said. “It is not just about having funds, but the ability to distribute them effectively.”
During the Hamas-Israel conflict, The Fellowship placed 20 bomb shelters near the southern border, and delivered more than 5,000 meals to people in bomb shelters, along with activity kits for special needs children.
The Fellowship is the largest philanthropic organization in Israel. In the past two years, she said, she has proven that Christians loved her father, but did not support Israel because of him. It is a genuine support for God’s country. Her father fought for more than three decades to achieve acceptance for Christian support for Israel. Today, Eckstein said, people appreciate and celebrate it.
“As a religious woman, I am in such a privileged position,” she said. “I help people make aliyah, provide food to the hungry, and I have a platform to teach Christians more about the roots of their faith.
“The Torah is coming alive in Israel,” she concluded. “Christians are yearning for that connection.”
To learn more about Yael Eckstein and the honor she’s received from the Jerusalem Post, click here.