By COLlive reporter
The late founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (Keren L’Yedidut), Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was memorialized in Israel and abroad as the 30 day Shloshim period of mourning for his sudden passing came to a close last week.
Among the many who honored the memory of Rabbi Eckstein were members of the elderly population, many of whom’s lives have been touched by The Fellowship.
In Jerusalem, a ceremony commemorating Rabbi Eckstein was held on March 4 at the “Beit Rachel” club for the elderly in which dozens of Tanachs recorded in Hebrew and Russian were distributed to attendees. The Tanachs were sponsored by Dana Anderson, one of The Fellowship’s primary donors in the United States.
“A large portion of The Fellowship’s work has dealt with serving the needs of the most vulnerable populations in Israel, particularly the elderly and immigrants from the former Soviet Union,” said President of The Fellowship, Yael Eckstein. “It was most fitting for us to honor my father’s legacy in this fashion.”
The Fellowship will be distributing such kits in other elderly clubs as part of its program to reduce loneliness amongst Israel’s elderly population. The Fellowship already provides such clubs with furniture, coffee corners, games and warm blankets and sponsors activities throughout the year, which give the elderly an opportunity to leave their homes and to enrich their lives.
Rabbi Eckstein’s legacy of commitment and work for needy Jews around the world is already starting to bear fruits for the next generation. Chamah, an outreach organization for Jews from the former Soviet Union, dedicated a Torah scroll in his memory during the shloshim period.
Chamah’s director, Rabbi Hillel Zaltzman said: “Following the week of shiva for Rabbi Eckstein himself, with heavy hearts we began writing a Torah at our National Russian Shabbaton in Stamford, CT in his merit. The ceremony was attended by over 1,000 people, and many Jews who had never seen a Torah scroll in their lives, wrote a letter in his honor.
“To carry on Rabbi Eckstein’s mission of feeding the hungry and his dedication to celebrating Judaism, the extensive Chamah Passover programs in Moscow will be dedicated to the righteous memory of Yechiel Tzvi ben Shimon,” Rabbi Zaltzman added. “Over 2,500 Jews will attend our Seders in four locations around Moscow, and 4,000 food packages will be distributed to the needy and elderly. May his memory be a blessing.”
Rabbi Eckstein’s impact was felt even in countries such as Morocco that have a very small number of Jews remaining. The country’s Chabad Rabbi Levi Banon remarked: “Reb Yechiel always had the right words of encouragement for me and our work in Morocco. He came personally for a visit to strengthen our community. He was always enthusiastic about receiving Nachas (pleasurable) reports from projects undertaken and was especially excited to hear about new projects. Reb Yechiel will be dearly missed!”
To mark the end of shloshim, Morocco’s Chabad house hosted a Shabbaton and dedicated weekly classes on March 4 and 5 in the memory of Rabbi Eckstein.
“We are overcome with emotion over how many lives have been touched by Rabbi Eckstein and the work of The Fellowship. The stories and accounts continue to come in and are endless,” Yael Eckstein said. “The work goes on, and I’m confident that The Fellowship will only get stronger and continue to help even more people.”