The Bridge Builder
Reviewed by Eli Libenson
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein is the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an organization that raises millions of dollars a year from the fundamentalist Christian community to benefit needy Jews in Israel and worldwide. The Bridge Builder tells the story of this courageous and controversial rabbi who was among the first to recognize the deep attachment of this particular Christian community to the Jewish people and especially of its tie to the Land of Israel.
Biographer Zev Chafetz describes a driven man in whom personal ambition and idealism both play a role. Rabbi Eckstein jokingly refers to himself as the rabbi with the biggest Gentile following since Jesus. But closer to home, he has been the object of scorn and derision, rejection and repudiation by certain segments of the Jewish establishment who have grave misgivings as to the true motives of the evangelical Christian community.
Rabbi Eckstein’s radio spots in heavily American-accented Hebrew have made him a familiar and recognized voice in the area of charitable work in Israel. There can be no doubt that his organization has been a blessing to untold thousands of Jews. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a close friend, in putting aside the controversy over ultimate motives, would refer to Rabbi Eckstein as “my holy brother”.
This book is highly recommended for those who are curious about who Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein is and are interested in what his organization does.