Yael Eckstein, IFCJ President, on the Power of Faith, Family and Commitment
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) was founded in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and build broad support for Israel. Today it is one of the leading forces helping Israel and Jews in need worldwide, and is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel. Founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship now raises more than $120 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist Israel and the Jewish people. Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.8 billion for this work. The organization has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Toronto, and Seoul.
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Yael Eckstein, 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.
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Yael Eckstein has partnered with other global organizations, appeared on national television, and visited with 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 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.
We recently had the opportunity to talk to Yael Eckstein, IFCJ President, about faith, family, and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, when according to tradition the Jewish people stood at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Word of God.
What would you say is the most important quality in a person of faith?
We talk a lot about serving God with our unique talents and treasures, and we all excel in different areas in our service to God, but are there some character traits that are more important than others? Is there one quality that is more important than the rest? This question fascinates me and I think the Festival of Weeks, in Hebrew the holiday of Shavuot, provides some answers.
We read the Book of Ruth during this holiday, and I wanted to share some key verses from the Book of Ruth and discover the one quality that can elevate all of our character traits and take our service to God to the next level.
How has commitment and consistency played a role in your life?
My husband and I, thank God, have been together for 20 years. And God bless him, he is the most amazing man, the most amazing husband, the most amazing father in the world. A long time ago, we dated for four years and we've been married now for 16 years. And after all this time together, I can completely relate to the importance of commitment and consistency in a relationship.
It was a long time ago when Amichai and I first met, and I still remember that feeling. It was amazing. We had such a deep connection and we just wanted to be in each other’s presence every second. We stayed up day and night just talking and laughing and connecting and thinking and dreaming. It was beautiful. It was fun. It was exciting. Yet at the same time, looking back now, I realize that it was only part of the picture.
I was only showing him one part of me, the part that I wanted him to see. I wasn't comfortable with him seeing me sad or completely vulnerable. I wasn't comfortable going to those places that were painful, that were hard, that were the ugly sides of me. I didn’t want him to see that side of me. I didn’t want him to be disappointed, or for his feelings to change. I wanted him to only see me as the smart, the fun, the happy, the introspective, the exciting, not all those other negative things. But of course, that can't last.
After 20 years, we have now seen each other both at our best, and also at our worst. We have gone through the happy times of our children being born, family vacations, and deep times of connecting and bonding and excitement. And we've also gone through challenging times, times that are hard, times that test us, times where I’m angry, times where I’m not feeling like connecting to someone. But it’s because we remained committed to each other and to treating each other with kindness as best we could day in and day out that our relationship is stronger than ever before. Now I can be myself all the time. I can come home from work feeling annoyed and vulnerable and angry, and Amichai knows me well enough to know what I need and when I need it. He knows when I feel like connecting, he knows when I feel like laughing, and he knows when I simply need a hug and a word of encouragement.
The loving relationship that we enjoy today after 20 years, thank God, was made possible by our commitment to each other, and the work that we were and still are willing to put in on a daily basis. The foundation of every good and lasting relationship is commitment. It’s true of our relationships with people, and it’s true of our relationship with God. When we stay obedient to God, we take our relationship with Him to a higher level. The more we remain committed and consistent in our service to God, the more we will grow closer and personally connected to him.
The holiday of Shavuot is a time to celebrate God’s Word, and it’s also a time to recommit ourselves to His word. I want to challenge everyone to remain committed and consistent in your service to God. What are the core values that you won’t waiver on? Will you stick with it like Ruth, or will you turn back like Orpah when it gets difficult to remain obedient? God sticks with us no matter what. And the question we have to ask ourselves every second of every day is will we stick with Him?