Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Sivan 5764 - May 27, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Major US Missionary Group Channeling Millions of Shekels to Israel Through Keren Yedidut
by Betzalel Kahn

A Yated Ne'eman investigation has found that a group of Christian missionaries has gained a strong foothold in public and social institutions by funneling generous donations through an organization headed by a Jew wearing a yarmulke.

Fifty million evangelic Christians are behind the US organization, whose stated goal is to convert the peoples of the world, particularly the Jewish people, to Christianity. As part of its missionary activity the organization, known as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) or just Keren Yedidut (Friendship Foundation) in Hebrew, urges Jews to make aliya and has already invested tens of millions of dollars.

The organization's head and founder, Yechiel Eckstein of Chicago, is making every effort to penetrate the chareidi public by making donations to various bodies and institutions. In ads and books, the IFCJ has made numerous alarming remarks over the years, including Eckstein's declaration in one of his books that he had become a Jew for J. Eckstein has denied that he is a Jew for J.

Other evangelical leaders have praised Eckstein for his work. One cassette quotes an American minister who says, "I think of the words of J. when I think of Rabbi Eckstein, `Blessed be the peacemakers.'" On the same cassette Eckstein says, "All he is asking of us is our loyalty. When we [the Christian-Jews] work and believe together as brothers and sisters duty-bound to the same goals we can achieve the miracle."

Eckstein's books are full of statements that undermine the foundations of emunoh for the Jewish people, statements too disturbing to print. He also released an edition of Tanach together with the Christian Bible, Rachmono litzlan.

Eckstein has served as an adviser to Israeli prime ministers and he also sits on the boards of the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee.

The millions of dollars the Fellowship has spent in Israel with the intention of advancing conversion efforts pose a real danger since the names and addresses of needy families supported by the Friendship Foundation have been passed on to missionary figures in the US. The Fellowship board is made up of evangelical ministers.

The Fellowship employs several techniques, wedging their way into crisis organizations, Torah and welfare institutions, assistance bureaus and educational institutions in the chareidi, national-religious and secular sectors. Among other endeavors they support the setup of soup kitchens and various aid and charity organizations in order to penetrate the Israeli establishment and voluntary groups that operate with assistance funding from US missionaries. These chessed organizations in Eretz Yisroel have no heter whatsoever to accept this tainted money, but the IFCJ tries to persuade chessed organizations to take the money, claiming they received a heter from rabbonim.

According to Rabbi Zeev Shteiglitz, one of the heads of Lev L'Achim's anti- missionary department, the problem of missionary activity is getting worse. "Eckstein has caused all sorts of missionaries to come into Israel . . . We are deeply concerned over the increase in missionary activity in Eretz Yisroel and the [Jews] who fall victim as a result, and Keren Yedidut has a substantial hand in this."

In a statement to Yated Ne'eman the Fellowship replied, "As one who has grown accustomed to the ongoing, obsessive provocation campaign by interested figures, once again the question has arisen regarding the relationship of the Fellowship and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein to the evangelist communities numbering 60 million people in the US alone.

"The provocation campaign has labeled Rabbi Eckstein as a Jew for J., G-d forbid, without examining the facts. All based on three words taken out of context from a story that was totally fictitious. Other claims fade away when one takes the trouble to check the original text. Furthermore, like every human being, Rabbi Eckstein may have made inappropriate remarks here and there, and as someone who was reared on a Torah-based education, it is not hard for him to express regret for his mistakes."

The Fellowship claims Eckstein relies on remarks supposedly written by the Netziv and that "Rabbi Eckstein believes, based on his wealth of experience during the past 25 years, that today there are pure-hearted goyim who would like to do good things for Israel.

"He also holds that they do not harbor missionary intent in their heart. You and many others in Israel should know that not all Christians are missionaries. The evangelical community includes President George Bush, former president Bill Clinton, and US District Attorney John Ashcroft. Forbidding contact with them based on the claim that they want to convert the Jews not only distances the last friends Israel has left in the international community, but also can give rise to far-reaching questions of hatred toward Israel and increasing antisemitism around the world.

"The Fellowship, under the direction of leading Jews and Christians in their fields, decided from the day of its founding not to promote any form of education or religion whatsoever and even built fences in matters of religious influence and the tie between donors and recipients, and the Fellowship has no ties with those involved in religious conversion.

"It would be worthwhile to evaluate once and for all the halachic perspective on receiving aid from Christians on the level of a beis din that would listen to all sides in the spirit of `shemo'a bein achichem ushpatetem tzedek,' rather than placing Rabbi Eckstein as a focal point for public review without the right to reply, but to evaluate in a pointed manner based on halochoh. The Chief Rabbinate Council, which made a decision on the matter in the past, avoided taking responsibility and did not judge the issue."

The Fellowship insists that to Eckstein "halochoh was and will forever remain a ner leraglov, and all decisions by a beis din made by gedolei Torah will be accepted by him." The Fellowship statement also notes that Eckstein received rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University.

HaRav Simchah HaKohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rechovot, who presented the organization's grave heresy to gedolei Yisroel, said maranan verabonon were deeply disturbed and "if the public were to read his heretical remarks it would have to do krioh. We are not allowed, according to din Torah, to write and print all of the hateful words he writes against Judaism. The things he says and writes in his books constitute denial of Borei Olom of the worst kind conceivable. When a person writes a book [encouraging] the Jew and the Christian to stand together, the Jew in church and the goy at the Kosel, there is no apostasy worse than this. When he makes fools of Jews by not mentioning that the Keren Yedidut is Christians, it is far graver.

"It was not right for us not to judge him. Several botei din have already judged Eckstein based on what he said and wrote in the book and not what he thought, and some of them issued serious prohibitions against accepting money from him and cooperating with him."


Christian money is sent to Israel in several different ways, explains Rabbi Shteiglitz of Lev L'Achim. "Either the Keren Yedidut sends money or some take money from organizations for peace or the Christian embassy. `What difference does it make?' the man on the street asks himself? `Why shouldn't I accept money from all of these Christian organizations just as I accept money from any other organization?' And people take money from various organizations that definitely have missionary activity. The very act of taking money from such bodies grants them legitimacy and brings Jews to the mission doors."

Today Lev L'Achim's anti-missionary department has to tackle bigger problems than in the past. "Besides Eckstein, his deeds and his opinions, a man who says he is a Jew for J., he has caused all kinds of missionaries to come into Eretz Yisroel," says Rabbi Shteiglitz. "And not just him. The New Foundation for Jerusalem has been set up. Pat Robertson sits there and gives sermons, preaching missionary ideas in the US from coast to coast. The danger this entails needs no further explanation. We are deeply concerned over the increase in missionary activity in Eretz Yisroel and the [Jews] who fall victim as a result, and Keren Yedidut has a substantial hand in this."

According to HaRav Kook, several gedolei Yisroel have issued very strong remarks against Eckstein and his endeavors. "Mendelssohn, sheim reshoim yirkav, did less than him and caused a great churban among the Jewish people," he adds.

"The Christian evangelists' ideology is to take advantage of the Jewish people and to infuse life into Christianity. They hold that all those who do not convert to Christianity will simply cease to exist, chas vesholom, and nobody knows their worldview better than Yechiel Eckstein. How can Eckstein mention the name of the Netziv with such chutzpah?

"It should be clear that we acknowledge the good we receive from the nations of the world and US President George Bush for his positive and sympathetic stance toward Israel, but when an organization like Lev L'Achim comes along and declares that the entire war against missionaries has been undermined by the fact the evangelists penetrated Eretz Yisroel, this refers to the spread of the mission as a result of Eckstein's activities. Therefore he who guards his soul will steer clear of them."

<29 Iyar, p. 3>

Yated Reports on Missionary Activity by IFCJ Draw Public Response

by Betzalel Kahn

The reports on missionary activity by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) that appears this week in the English Yated had a strong impact on the public, after it appeared in the Hebrew edition of Yated Ne'eman last week, including readers who have been receiving funds via the Fellowship. Led by Yechiel Eckstein of Chicago for over twenty years, the organization has channeled tens of millions of dollars in grants and funding to individuals and institutions in Eretz Yisroel in recent years.

The donations, some of which are funneled directly to Torah and chessed organizations, come from evangelical Christians in the US whose goal is to strengthen the ties between missionary Christians and Jews and Israel. Many theologians say they are motivated by their belief in converting Jews to Christianity, chas vesholom.

Eckstein remains in constant contact with the major missionaries operating in Israel, gives legitimacy to Christianity within the Israeli public. Statements that he has published appear to express a belief in J. but Eckstein denies that this is the case and maintains that he is a loyal Jew who observes halacha.

According to Lev L'Achim's anti-missionary department, which has waged an ongoing battle against the Fellowship, many figures who were in contact with the Fellowship called Lev L'Achim during the past week to ask how they should proceed in light of the newly publicized facts. In response, Lev L'Achim put its emergency hotline (1-800-366-100) at their disposal.

Rabbonim and public officials express deep concern over an enormous NIS 100 million foundation set up in cooperation with Ma'ariv to help assist Israeli families in a state of financial crisis, because the contact forged when the missionaries give grants directly to needy families can pose great spiritual danger to the recipients.


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