Eckstein challenges halachic ruling and threatens exposure of religious beneficiaries

Last week in Jerusalem, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, considered the greatest and one of the most respected halachic authorities in the hareidi world, issued a ruling forbidding the acceptance of Christian funding from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ/Keren HaYedidut). Reports on the ruling cite concerns that acceptance of such funds could lead to possible breaches in the prohibitions against avodah zarah (alien worship), promote missionary activity, and cause a desecration of G-d’s name.

Yechiel Eckstein, the Director of IFCJ, is no stranger to controversy and he has taken off the gloves and threatened to expose hareidi organizations who take funding from his organization. In a Jerusalem Post article, Eckstein, who insists on brashly publicizing the very Christian origins of IFCJ’s donations, says he is exposing IFCJ’s list of hareidi beneficiaries in order “to make sure everything is perfectly transparent.”

Matthew Wagner of the Jpost put a more perverse spin on it:

“Now, with Elyashiv's ruling, it remains to be seen which will be stronger - haredi organizations' fidelity to their spiritual leader, or their desire to continue to do good deeds.”

(Don’t worry, Matthew. Jewish Israel has no doubt those Jews who adhere to Torah rulings to reject Christian funding will continue to do good deeds, work a little harder, and may even reap extra spiritual benefits for their decision and efforts).

Eckstein, who represents his Christian donors on the boards of the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod/United Israel Appeal, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, is anxious to prove that in a post-Madoff era EVERYBODY is, or will be, taking from IFCJ. But still, he must find it frustrating that a wide range of Jews from the secular to the observant - on both sides of political spectrum - continue to distrust him as an individual, are wary of his methods, and are uncomfortable with having the Jewish community being beholden to fundamentalist, missionizing Christian sources for charity.

Rav Eliyashiv is far from being the only halachic authority to disallow donations from IFCJ. An A7 article reporting on Rav Eliyashiv’s ruling noted that “other rabbis who made similar decisions include R. Samuel Auerbach, R Nissim Kerlitz, R. Ovadia Yosef, R. Mordechai Eliyahu”.

Jewish Israel has posted a recent decision by Chabad’s Rabbincal Court in Israel against accepting funds from IFCJ.

But in an embarrassing discrepancy last week, Colel Chabad was featured in an A7 report as recipients of funding from the IFCJ.

Jewish Israel notes that Chabad runs an enormous network of organizations and philanthropic services internationally. They are, unfortunately, not in full control of all of the actions, personalities, and messages coming out in the name of Chabad. It’s such inconsistencies that Eckstein banks upon. We’ve seen him use this tactic in the past.

“Rabbi” Eckstein may be determined to embarrass and corner the Torah observant world, but Jewish Israel can attest to the fact that more and more Torah true authorities are expressing utter alarm at the degree of Christian influence in Israel, and they are beginning to take a firm stand and calling for consensus and accountability. Jewish Israel continues to hold weekly meetings with rabbinic leaders in Israel and we are regularly updating our halachic section as opinions and rulings are made available.

As a public service, Jewish Israel will be happy to post the names and contact information of those tzedaka organizations and projects which are not taking funding from IFCJ or other Christian institutions.

UPDATE: Arutz 7 has picked up on Jewish Israel's post and "counter offer"
read: Evangelical Funding Heats Up: Rival Groups to Reveal Names

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Comment by Jewish Israel on October 29, 2009 at 2:28pm
So many lines are being crossed right now that everybody is tripping (Orthodox rabbis included).
Comment by Patty Abbatoy on October 29, 2009 at 1:55pm
You know at first I thought Rabbi Eckstein was sincere but I can now certainly see where his actions among evangelicals has become suspect among religious and secular Jews, especially, as we discussed, since IFCJ only airs their paid commercials on xtian TV exclusively, not on secular TV in the US. Thus, directly funding missionary work.

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