Those of you familiar with Shema! know that the Messianic Movement is important and worth supporting. In recent years, however, some individuals and organizations have come along who are taking advantage of Christians’ interest in Israel and prophecy, in order to further their own agendas. In terms of knowing which individuals or ministries are worthy of financial support, discernment is required. If it’s your desire to support ministries to the Jewish people, particularly those doing work in Israel, you deserve to know that the money you donate is being used in a way that’s consistent with your Biblical world-view and priorities. Sadly, that isn’t always the case.
One organization we have serious concerns about is the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and its founder, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. Many well-meaning Christians give money to this organization because they saw one of Rabbi Eckstein’s infomercials (“On Wings of Eagles”) describing how his organization helps Russian and Ethiopian Jews return to Israel. Rabbi Eckstein assures the viewer that by supporting this work they are “blessing” the Jewish people and helping to fulfill Biblical prophecy that in the Last Days the Jewish people would return to our ancient homeland. Rabbi Eckstein is intelligent, engaging and knows how to speak the language of Evangelical Christianity. On the surface it seems like a good thing to support his organization. But there are serious problems with the IFCJ and its founder, which people should be aware of before sending the organization any money.
Rabbi Eckstein Isn’t Messianic And IFCJ Isn’t Christian
Many Christians believe that Rabbi Eckstein is a Messianic Jew. He isn’t. He’s an Orthodox rabbi who rejects Yeshua’s claim to be the Messiah. While there’s nothing wrong with giving to non-Christian charities, it’s important to know that Rabbi Eckstein isn’t messianic and the IFCJ isn’t a Christian organization.
Hostility To Messianic Jews
In fact, not only is Rabbi Eckstein not a Messianic Jew, he is hostile to Messianic Jews! In his book What Christians Should Know about Jews and Judaism (Word Publishing, 1984), Rabbi Eckstein devoted nearly an entire chapter to persuading Christians to have nothing to do with Messianic Jews. Here is what Rabbi Eckstein has to say about Messianic Jews: “By sprinkling their Christian lives of faith with Jewish customs and rituals taken out of their proper, historic context, they pervert Jewish symbols and make a mockery of the Jewish faith … A Jew who accepts Jesus as Lord or Messiah effectively ceases to be a Jew. He is viewed almost treasonously as having abandoned his faith, given up his Jewish heritage, and severed all links with the Jewish peoplehood… More than constituting an imposing threat to Jewish life and survival, Hebrew Christians are the source of much of the Jewish distrust of Evangelicals and the discord in their relations” (What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism,© 1984 Word Publishing, pp. 294-299). In an August 2004 interview with Eric Greenberg of The Jewish Daily Forward, Rabbi Eckstein made his contempt for Messianic Jews abundantly clear, as well as revealing his objective to divide Evangelical Christians from their Messianic Jewish brothers: “What I’m sensing now, and I’m concerned about it, is a deliberate effort on the part of some evangelical groups to affirm their messianic components… Until now, they (Evangelicals) have realized that if they want to have relations with the Jewish community and Israel they have to put messianic groups aside because they know people like myself aren’t going to work with them.”
Hostility To Jewish Evangelism
Beyond Rabbi Eckstein’s personal disapproval of Messianic Judaism, he forbids his staff and volunteers from sharing the Gospel with Jewish people that IFCJ is bringing back to Israel. This fact has been confirmed by those doing evangelism in the former Soviet Union and by Messianic Jews in Israel who are familiar with IFCJ. It’s Rabbi Eckstein’s prerogative to set policy for his organization, but Christians deserve to know that a muzzle is put on the Gospel by this organization. That’s terrible! The Jewish people need the Messiah more than anything! Messiah is our greatest need! As a dear friend of ours once observed, “A Jew who dies in Israel without Jesus is no better off in eternity than a Jew who dies in Russia, or anywhere else, without Jesus.”
Persecution Of Israeli Messianic Jews
Several of the organizations in Israel that receive money from IFCJ are Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox. In 2009, tensions between Rabbi Eckstein and Orthodox Jewish leaders in Israel revealed that ultra-Orthodox groups were receiving financial support from IFCJ (www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/134027#.U5srC5uLVvU). Some of these same Orthodox groups target Israeli Messianic Jews for harassment and even violent opposition. Consequently, Christians who give money to Rabbi Eckstein’s organization are assisting the persecution of fellow believers! According to Joshua Aaron, an Israeli Messianic singer/songwriter, at least $6 million of IFCJ contributions have gone to organizations that support anti-missionary activity!
(http://worshipinisrael.com/author/joshua-aaron/)! To get a fuller understanding of this systematic targeting of Messianic Jews by the Orthodox, see http://maozblog.com/israel/ongoing-persecution-of-messianic-jews/#.U5sqRJulVvU.
Rabbi Eckstein boasts that tens of millions of dollars are given each year by the IFCJ to help offset poverty in Israel. But what he isn’t telling you is that many of the charities that receive these monies are Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox, and Messianic Jews are excluded from receiving any of this aid. Approximately 40 percent of Israeli Messianic Jews live under the poverty line. Yet, because they believe in Yeshua, they are refused support. Christians are unknowingly supporting an organization whose practices forbid help to Messianic Jews and support those who persecute them! How crazy is that?
Hugely Inappropriate Salary
For someone who leads a non-profit charity, Rabbi Eckstein’s salary and benefits package is inappropriately high. According to the IRS 990 submitted by IFCJ for 2012, his combined salary and benefits were over $1,200,000! See the October 2013 article in Charisma Magazine about Rabbi Eckstein’s hugely inappropriate salary: www.charismamag.com/blogs/standing-with-israel/18718-worth-his-weight-in-gold.
Conclusion: The IFCJ Is Unworthy Of Our Support
It’s our opinion that Christians should not be giving any financial support to Rabbi Eckstein or the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. The good news for those who want to bless the Jewish people is that there are reputable messianic organizations who do the same humanitarian work while honoring the name of Yeshua and sharing the Good News with the Jewish people – which is the best way to bless us. These organizations include:
Jews for Jesus (www.jewsforjesus.org)
Jewish Voice Ministries International (www.jewishvoice.org)
Vision For Israel (www.visionforisrael.com)
Messianic Jewish Israel Fund (www.mjif.org)
The MJAA Joseph Project (www.mjaa.org)