But the group is not without its critics
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (ANS — June 7, 2016) – After decades of “building bridges” between Christians and Jews in North America, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) is engaging Brazil’s burgeoning evangelical Christian population to generate new support for Israel and global Jewish needs.
The Fellowship’s Founder and President, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, has been in the midst of a two-week trip to a series of mega-churches across Brazil, speaking to many thousands of parishioners about The Fellowship’s work supporting poor Jews, helping Jews immigrate to Israel and fortifying Jewish institutions threatened by terrorism.
Since arriving, Eckstein has been speaking to churches of between 1,000 to 5,000 members, part of Brazil’s rising evangelical community that represents 22 percent of the general Christian population of nearly 50 million people — the second largest evangelical community in the world behind the United States. Each church in turn claims ancillary churches that, via social media, are reaching millions across Brazil with Eckstein’s message.
According to a news release, the Brazil trip was the latest effort in The Fellowship’s campaign to build on its close relations with U.S. Christians and create new strategic Christian alliances worldwide for Israel. These new alliances will counter deepening anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment including pressing challenges like the BDS movement. The Fellowship has also begun operating an office in Brazil as part of this strategy.
Eckstein’s itinerary, which began May 26 and concluded today (June 7), included speaking before The Way of the Trees Baptist Church in Salvador, Bahia; the Baptist Church of Jardim Sao Paulo and the Assembly of God Victory in Christ Recife, in Recife, Pernambuco; the Getsemani Baptist Church in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais; the Calvary Evangelical Church and Light of Life Church in Brusque, the Assembly of God More of Christ in Florianopolis, and the Embassy of the Kingdom of God Church in Balneario Camboriu, all in Santa Catarina.
The news release said that church members have “warmly embraced” Eckstein. At the Way of the Tree Baptist Church, members sang “How Great Is Our God” in Hebrew and stood to applaud the rabbi; at the Baptist Church of Jardim, a group of pastors surrounded the rabbi and prayed for forgiveness for centuries of Christian persecution of Jews, moving many church members to tears.
“It’s been an amazing and humbling experience to speak with many thousands of Brazilian Christians about Israel, and to underscore our belief that those who bless Israel will in turn be blessed,” Eckstein said.
About The Fellowship:
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 in helping Israel and Jews in need worldwide – and is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel. Led by its founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship now raises more than $140 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist Israel and the Jewish people.
“Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.3 billion for this work. The organization has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, Seoul, and Sao Paulo. For more information, visit www.ifcj.org.
Criticism and response
However, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and its founder, have not been without its critics. Some evangelicals point to the fact that they do not encourage those that give, to also evangelize Jews. “It is like they want evangelical’s money, but with strings attached,” said one critic.
Also, some Jews don’t like the way the organization operates.
According to Wikipedia, a July 24, 2005, New York Times magazine article by Zev Chafets notes: “For decades, Orthodox critics have accused Eckstein of being a closet Christian; in addition, The Jewish Observer, the house magazine of the ultra-Orthodox organization Agudath Israel of America, called Eckstein’s work “a curse.”
The Times article also states, “Many of the Jews who once derided Eckstein for depending on the kindness of strangers now want to be his best friends.”
As Eckstein grew increasingly powerful, he attracted criticism from parts of the Orthodox community from which he came and whose good opinion he covets.
According to the Times article, Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League national director, remains one of Eckstein’s most prominent critics, accusing the rabbi of “selling the dignity of the Jewish people” by asking for donations, saying: “We’re not a poor people.”
However, Eckstein has no apologies for his support from Christians, insisting he does more than fund-raising, saying, “It’s a ministry.” He also states: “There are all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories out there about how evangelicals only support Israel to bring on Armageddon or because they want to convert the Jews to Christianity. That’s just not true…. They’re not religious fanatics, and they don’t have ulterior motives. These are good, religious people who love Israel and want to help. What’s the matter with that?”
For further information, please contact: Ryan Greiss, Puder PR, New York. Office: +1 (212) 558-9400; Cell: +1 (201) 906-0497; Ryan@PuderPR.com.
Photo captions: 1) The Fellowship’s Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein addresses the Baptist Church of Jardim Sao Paulo. (Courtesy of IFCJ). 2) Congregants listen intently to Rabbi Eckstein at Assembly of God Victory in Christ Recife, in Recife. (Courtesy of IFCJ). 3) Congregants pray at the Way of the Trees Baptist Church in Salvador. (Courtesy of IFCJ). 4) Dan Wooding rides a donkey in Israel.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books, the latest is Mary My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary (http://marythebook.com). Dan has a weekly radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California. Before moving to the US, Dan was a senior reporter with two of the UK’s largest circulation newspapers and was also an interviewer for BBC Radio One in London.
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