When the Anti-Defamation League sent a young Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein to Chicago to foster interfaith relations in the late 1970’s, he was surprised to see how responsive Christian evangelicals were to the cause of supporting and defending Israel.
Eckstein founded The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1983 to promote cross-cultural understanding and build broad support for Israel, Soviet Jewry, and other shared concerns. The Fellowship has grown and thrived over the last three decades, raising more than $1.1 billion, and is one of the largest 50 NGOs in America today. American Christians have become one of Israel’s most reliable sources of financial and moral support.
Few people realize that Eckstein and The Fellowship have done an unprecedented good deed in bridging an ancient cultural gap. Renowned journalist Zev Chafets explores Eckstein’s role in this important interfaith evolution, showing how an American rabbi made major progress in promoting dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect in the face of harsh and unrelenting opposition.
My thoughts: In The Bridge Builder we get a glimpse into the life of a devout conservative Jewish man who loves God and who wishes to live by God’s laws and precepts. A man who thinks beyond the day to day existence of life as a conservative Jewish man who studies in the traditional Jewish schools and under the tutelage of leaders of their religion. He becomes a Rabbi and a controversial Rabbi amongst his peers.
Delving into the life and beliefs of Christians and how Christianity’s roots came from the Jewish God, Eckstein seeks to understand. But his seeking is not toward embracing Christianity for himself, it is toward the goal of how he can encourage faithful Christians to support Jewish needs. To this extent he is building bridges between the two faith communities.
Because evangelical Christians believe that God mandates that we love, care for, and cherish God’s chosen people, the Jews, Eckstein has opened the door so that they can have avenues to funnel that care. And the donations began to come in. Small at first and then in unprecedented amounts. These funds have been used to resettle Jews into Israel, to provide food, shelter, and warmth for destitute elderly Jews in Russia, etc.
Eckstein’s early life is interesting and the ways his faith community “shunned” (not the Jewish term) him because of his own actions and beliefs is disturbing. Also, his convoluted journey to becoming who he is and how he conceived and built “The Fellowship” is an interesting story.
The author, Zev Chafets, writes an excellent biography and the reading was easy and kept my interest. He captured the essence of a man who has met with and worked with a number of big names in the Christian, Jewish, entertainment, and political worlds. And while a rule breaker, he is nevertheless, a faithful law-keeper of Jewish law.
He has bridged a gap that has existed for eons where the Christian community has shunned, hated, and persecuted the Jews. Let us hope that equally the gap between God and man can be bridged so that man can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
GIVEAWAY - FLASH - LIMITED TIME
Begins August 27 & ENDS September 4 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT.
Open to USA & CANADA addresses only. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.About the author: Zev Chafets is the bestselling author of fourteen books of fiction, media criticism, and social and political commentary. He has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine and is a former columnist for the New York Daily News.
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