Rabbi with Pentecostal Links Declared Unkosher

The Christian Zionist-Jewish Zionist love affair is undergoing another strain with the announcement in Haaretz that a leading religious authority believes Jews should not be accepting cash from the Fellowship of Christians and Jews:

Some two weeks ago, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu – one of the national-religious camp’s most highly regarded halakhic authorities, alongside Rabbi Avraham Shapira – published a letter in which he backtracked on his ruling that Jews can enjoy the fund’s bounty despite it being a gift from Christians. “Now, it appears otherwise to me,” Eliahu wrote in his new letter. “And as a result, I concur with what was written by the great rabbi, the genius Rabbi Avraham Shapira…and, therefore, my statements or writings from before this letter are all null and void, and I am party to the prohibition.”

The Fellowship, which is based in Chicago and is run by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, invites Christians to support Israel in several areas, such as assisting with Jewish emigration from Russia and, according to its website, helping “victims of terrorism and poverty in the Holy Land”. According to an AP report, the Fellowship

raised $20 million from American Christians for Jewish immigration to Israel last year [2002]. This year it’s giving $2.8 million to welfare programs in 80 communities in Israel, in some cases triple the amount of funding those cities get from Israel’s Ministry of Social Affairs.

But Jewish concerns about Eckstein are long-standing. ADL head Abraham Foxman told the Jerusalem Report (undated) that

Eckstein is selling the dignity of the Jewish people and the state of Israel by pandering to Christians for money…We have a modern state with extensive social services. And we’re not a poor people. What he’s doing is perverse. And for the Jewish and Israeli leadership to accept his money is also perverse.

There are even claims that Eckstein is secretly a Messianic Jew, with a rabbi character in a novel he wrote calling himself a “Jew for Jesus”. Eckstein had strong links with the late Jamie Buckingham, a Pentecostal-Charismatic pastor (and one-time ghost writer for Corrie Ten Boom and Nicky Cruz). Eckstein called Buckingham his “rabbi”, and according to ASSIST News Service, Eckstein claimed that he wrote the novel after receiving a prophecy from a Charismatic Christian:

I happened to be giving a talk at The Community of Jesus in Cape Cod where Jamie would often go to speak. 

There was somebody there and he said that he had a ‘word of knowledge’ that I should write a book about Jamie and I walking through Israel together…

Well, that’s a bit unusual, but not in itself evidence of a secret Christian faith. As MinistryWatch suggests:

Rabbi Eckstein’s comments on faith and evangelism seem to imply a commitment on his part to a kind of religious relativism.

MinistryWatch also notes that critics might think that “Rabbi Eckstein’s total compensation seems excessive at about $381,500 for 2002”, although supporters would point towards the organisation’s “financial openness and transparency”. Eckstein, who enjoys endorsements from the likes of Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed, claims that he has no contact with groups that specifically target Jews for conversion. But, as noted before, it seems that despite the prayer breakfasts and petitions, there is increasing scepticism among Jews and Israelis about their “allies”.

UPDATE (11 May): The AP has picked up the story. Eckstein defended his links to Christians who may wish to convert Jews or bring about the end of the world by stating that

Judaism does not focus so much on motivations as much as deeds…In Judaism, the actions speak louder than words, and certainly louder than motivations.

However, Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee’s Jerusalem office complained that the Christians’ political agenda was more worrying than their possible missionary activities:

There’s support for some of the most extreme political positions in Israeli society…That I find far more disturbing than any suggestion that there could be missionary activity.

5 Responses

  1. […] that Jews should not accept funds from the Fellowship of Christians and Jews. See my entry for today. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Israel Chief Rabbinate Tells Jews to Avoid […]

  2. Let me tell you one thing. I know Rabbi Eckstein personally and can 100% assure you he is NOT a closet messianic as you imply several times.

  3. Thanks, you’ll see that I concurred with the MinistryWatch evaluation rather than the “secret Messianic” interpretation.

  4. […] target readership back in 1984, while Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s enthusiasm for Pentecostals was noted on this blog some time ago. Brog’s book also has a foreword by John Hagee, the powerful […]

  5. […] enthusiasm for Buckingham and Charismatic Christianity has also been controversial, as I explored here. One person who has been keen to claim ten Boom’s mantle is Mike Evans, who founded the […]

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