Yael Eckstein, IFCJ President and CEO, oversees all ministry programs and serves as the international spokesperson for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Prior to her present duties, Yael served as Global Executive Vice President, Senior Vice President, and Director of Program Development and Ministry Outreach. Based in Israel with her husband and their four children, Yael is a published writer and a respected social services professional.
Yael Eckstein has contributed to The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and other publications, and is the author of three books: Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to Our Children, Holy Land Reflections: A Collection of Inspirational Insights from Israel, and Spiritual Cooking with Yael. In addition, her insights into life in Israel, the Jewish faith, and Jewish-Christian relations can be heard on The Fellowship’s radio program, Holy Land Moments, which airs five times per week on over 1,500 radio stations around the world.
Yael Eckstein has partnered with other global organizations, appeared on national television, and visited with the U.S. and world leaders on issues of shared concern. She has been a featured guest on CBN’s The 700 Club with Gordon Robertson, and she served on a Religious Liberty Panel on Capitol Hill in May 2015 in Washington, D.C., discussing religious persecution in the Middle East. Her influence as one of the young leaders in Israel has been recognized with her inclusion in The Jerusalem Post’s 50 Most Influential Jews of 2020 and The Algemeiner’s Jewish 100 of 2019, and she was featured as the cover story of Nashim (Women) magazine in May 2015.
Born in Evanston, Illinois, outside of Chicago, and well-educated at both American and Israeli institutions – including biblical studies at Torat Chesed Seminary in Israel, Jewish and sociology studies at Queens College in New York, and additional study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem – Yael Eckstein has also been a Hebrew and Jewish Studies teacher in the United States.
Can you share some stories about IFCJ helping Jews around the world?
In the former Soviet Union there are so many Holocaust survivors and orphans that have no support network. The Fellowship is there with basic needs, just as the Bible outlines to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to care for the elderly and the orphans. That’s what The Fellowship is doing specifically in the former Soviet Union, telling the Jewish people, yes, it might be the fact that 70% of Nazis identified as being Christian, but today there’s a very different reality.
Christians are now coming to save your life, to give you basic needs when you’re on your last piece of bread when you don’t have any heat. These are Christians who are expressing their love. Real Christians acting Christ-like, not like the Nazis, but to give them hope for the future. There’s friendship. There’s love. There is a generation of Christians who are not rejecting the Jewish people but standing passionately and faithfully with the Jewish people.
For these Jews, returning to Israel is our main goal. Anybody who wants to come to Israel, we have a whole list that as soon as we get a donation, which thank God are even hundreds a day sometimes, we bring that person home. We have lists of thousands of people, though. Our first priority is bringing them home to Israel and we have people landing every single day in Israel, moving here from countries around the world, even from Venezuela and other at-risk places in South America.
We bring these Jewish people home to Israel, but we don’t give them a bottle of water and say, “Okay, good luck with your new life. Biblical prophecy fulfilled. We did our part.” No, we try and help them acclimate in advance and have a job set up before they even move to Israel. We conduct Skype interviews and connect the new immigrants with businesses in Israel that are looking for employees. Many of them already land with a job. We connect a volunteer who speaks their language and already went through this process to follow them for six months, just to explain to them how to register their kids for school, how to sign up for a bank account, where the nearest grocery store is.
Things are very overwhelming for new immigrants that don’t speak the language. These volunteers teach them how to speak Hebrew, let them know that they are able to receive government aid, and make sure that they apply and get all those benefits. It’s really kind of a Big Brother type of program that’s effective and cost-effective.
How does Israel manage integrating people from so many different cultures and languages all over the world?
An issue that is tearing people apart in America is the issue of immigration. I realize that Israel is the only country in the world, I think, that not only brings in immigrants, but that celebrates every single immigrant who wants to come home and sees to it that they’re able to. Anyone who is Jewish, they are allowed to make aliyah and by the time they leave the airport, they have citizenship. No tests. No process of six months or a year. As soon as any Jewish person wants to move to Israel, they get 100% citizenship immediately.
Not only that, when new immigrants land in Israel, The Fellowship has volunteered at the airport, singing and dancing and holding up signs and giving them hugs. The press is excited to welcome them in and features their stories. It’s very unique and I think it’s prophetic.
Can you explain the Christian connection to Israel?
We realized that there are 2.2 million Christians from around the world who came to Israel every single year, prior to the global health crisis. That is half of all the tourists to Israel and they’re coming from places like China and South America, places like Korea and America and Canada, from all over the world.
They’re coming to Israel and there’s no one who is educating them on modern Israel. They’re seeing the biblical holy sites, but there’s no one connecting that to modern Israel today and telling them how they can be goodwill ambassadors for Israel when they go back home.
They’re seeing the holy sites, but they’re still very open to being influenced by the BDS movement, which is trying to tear apart and destroy modern Israel. So what we’re doing is taking some of these 2.2 million Christians each year who are visiting Israel and having this amazing spiritual experience and we’re educating them on how they can go back to their homes and be ambassadors for Israel.
I think we’re living in very unique times. There’s always been antisemitism in the world. There’s never been a time that there wasn’t antisemitism, but today we have millions of Christians who stand with Israel. That’s the difference. We’re not alone.