The ORT network mourns the tragic passing of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, z”l.
Rabbi Eckstein raised hundreds of millions of dollars in donations for projects for Jews in Israel and other countries, and was a long-standing friend and supporter of World ORT’s work.
He died suddenly at home in Jerusalem on Wednesday aged 67.
Paying tribute to the work of the president and founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), Avi Ganon, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “In recent years, the IFCJ, led by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, has been among the largest donors and supporters of World ORT.
“Thanks to the Fellowship’s generosity, World ORT was able to operate its schools in the FSU and other countries, and thousands of children were able to receive a Jewish education.
“Thanks to the Fellowship’s work, these children can enjoy a hot meal and transportation to and from school.
“The Fellowship’s contribution greatly helps in maintaining the Jewish education enterprise in the Former Soviet Union.
“World ORT, together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, will make sure to cherish and perpetuate the Rabbi’s efforts as befits a leader and a pioneer.”
The IFCJ’s support has enabled ORT to provide hot school meals, free school buses and security – all of which are essential to make ORT schools accessible to those in Jewish communities across the FSU.
Rabbi Eckstein was honored for his work at ORT’s Board of Trustees’ dinner in 2017.
Speaking at the event, he called on the organization to raise $200,000 for the ORT school network in the former Soviet Union.
He pledged $100,000 and urged ORT supporters to match the donation.
Rabbi Eckstein told the dinner: “The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has been proud to participate in the efforts of ORT in the former Soviet Union. I hope and pray that you will continue to do all that you can do… and The Fellowship will continue to stand with you in the years ahead.”
Responding, Dr Conrad Giles, World ORT President, said: “We are honoured tonight to pay tribute to someone who has given so much to so many.
“Rabbi Eckstein has benefited institutions throughout the world. His work with aliyah has strengthened the State of Israel just as his contributions to World ORT have permitted us to perpetuate Judaism in Eastern Europe. Thank you, Rabbi, for all that you have done for our children.”
There was substantial financial support from the IFCJ for an ORT campaign in Argentina in the early 2000s. Around 7,000 students at the ORT school in Buenos Aires were helped by the campaign during the country’s financial depression.
In 2007, Rabbi Eckstein worked with ORT to co-ordinate the making of a documentary film about the Bnei Menashe tribe of Indian Jews, and he travelled to the region to accompany the film crew.
ORT India’s long-standing relationship with the tribe was used to facilitate the trip. ORT had run a pre-aliyah training program and computer training sessions with the Bnei Menashe, supported by the IFCJ.
WATCH: The special video tribute to Rabbi Eckstein made by ORT for the 2017 dinner:
May his memory be a blessing.