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May 5, 2014 9:41 pm

Christian Giving Provides Lifeline for ‘Abandoned’ Ukrainian Jewish Community (INTERVIEW)

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IFCJ's Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein with Jewish students in Ukraine. Photo: IFCJ/Eva Geller.

Since the outbreak of violence and political chaos in Ukraine, Christian charity has been lavished on the country’s beleaguered and isolated Jewish community, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, told The Algemeiner on Sunday.

In the past 30 days alone, his mammoth charity has stepped up to provide over $5 million in grants to aid the elderly and the poor hit by skyrocketing inflation. It has also filled the gap left by local philanthropists who are struggling amidst the tug-of-war between Russian and Ukrainian nationalists that is tearing the country apart.

As the unrest escalated, Eckstein visited the area and said he found a community that felt abandoned; by Israel and by the international Jewish community. A number of the people he spoke to made statements like, “Now we know how the Jews in Europe felt during the Shoah or before the Shoah,” he said. “Because no one else had come there. No one else put down money.”

The Fellowship, which raises north of $130 million from Christians annually, has been active in the former Soviet Union bloc for some time. Eckstein said his history of involvement proved crucial when it came to understanding the situation on the ground and responding quickly to the needs of the community.

“Medicine is up 70 percent. Food is up 20-30 percent. People who are living on Claims Conference money or on government social security, elderly – their needs are the same and… they don’t have the money to stretch to meet that,” he said. “They’re totally dependent on the outside world – the Jewish world for money, and it didn’t come through, and Israel for security.”

“You have a situation where they can’t afford… the lunch program for the children… where they can’t afford security,” he added.

Over the last few days, dozens have been killed in street clashes in the southern seaside city of Odessa. On Friday evening, tens of pro-Russian protesters were burned to death in the city’s trade union building.

“Parents are afraid to send their kids to school. So you have like 40 percent of the kids not coming to school because there is no security and there are no police there in Ukraine,” the rabbi explained.

While the violence hasn’t yet been specifically directed toward Jews, the general climate of anarchy has prompted the community to take extreme security precautions and prepare for evacuation, much of which has been funded by the Fellowship.

Eckstein says the main concern is that “in the past 24 hours all these riots and killings are happening two blocks away from the shul.”

Two local organizations that run schools and orphanages, Tikvah and Chabad, have a combined 3,000 children enrolled in their programs. “And they’re all downtown where the fighting is,” the rabbi said. “We are doing everything to ensure the children’s safety if this fighting continues.”

The Fellowship’s funds have been directed largely toward food supplies and security but also toward encouraging and facilitating the immigration of Jews to Israel through the Jewish Agency.

The group’s involvement in security arrangements for various Jewish communities has spanned the globe and benefited institutions in Istanbul, Morocco, Greece, Mumbai, Thailand, India and Venezuela. However, the demands of Ukraine’s Jewish institutions are among the most substantial.

Tikva in Odessa, for example, has 2,000 children under its care with multiple buildings. “They need cameras and they need walls and they need armed guards,” Eckstein said. “So just yesterday, for example, I approved an additional $70,000 to the community of Donetsk for the next six months to provide security and armed guards.”

The focus on Ukraine’s Jews is a result of the rabbi’s discretion, having been given the latitude by donors to direct the funds based on where the greatest need is within certain basic parameters. To begin with, the charity directs $25 million annually to FSU Jewry.

“When you ask why do Christians care particularly about Ukraine, the real answer is they don’t,” he explained. “The real answer is they care about the whole former Soviet Union, about helping them with food, clothing, medicine, heating fuel, children, elderly and security. That’s what I’ve taught them over the years.”

“I’m not keeping our donors in touch with what’s going on on a daily basis or an hourly basis. There comes a time when it needs Jewish leadership.”

“They have their needs,” the rabbi said of Ukraine’s Jews. “If they seem reasonable, then I just bring the money.”

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  • Moshe

    According to Maimonides, Jewish law (Halacha) permits Christianity for Christians as it is not considered idol worship for Christians.

    Just as Jews are required to help Christian poor along with Jewish poor, there is no reason for Jews to refuse aid from Christians as long as there are no strings attached. I trust Rabbi Eckstein to respect Jewish sensitivities in this regard.

    • It is a sin in God’s eyes for Christians to not support Jews everywhere. We must help them, or God will not bless us. The Jews of the Ukraine need to go to Israel, or somewhere safe. Of course we want Jews to learn about their masiah, for He was a Jew, of course, and messiah to them first. But that should not be our motive for helping Jews. We Christians are just grafted into the vine, not the root. We must love our root or be lopped off the vine forever. You can judge if people confessing to be Christians is true or not by whether or not they truly love Jews.

  • The motivation of any true Christian is to support Israel and all Jews in every way we can; by prayer, financial means and working within organizations established for this

  • T.C.

    What a cross little man you are J. You need a good dose of Joseph Prince.

  • Eliyahu

    As tempting as it is to accept the money, it is absolutely wrong to receive money from Christian charities. Their ultimate objective is converting Jews and besides Christianity (unlike Islam) is considered idol worship, and one cannot derive benefit from idol worship. That does not mean that individual Christians cannot donate money, but not Christian organisations or churches.

    • m_

      Your bitter and ugly comments are totally uncalled for. The reason you believe what you wrote this is your all consuming hatred of and bigotry toward Christians is greater than your love of the Jewish people if you actually have any love of our people. You are a Jewish bigot no better than any other bigot. Jew or Christian, we are all human. Jews all over the world thank our Christian friends who act as individuals or members of churches or Christian organizations for their deep love of the Jewish people and their great generosity to the poorest of the Jewish people who suffer largely in silence. Your comments are a disservice to Jews everywhere and and insult to Christians who care about the fate of the Jewish people. How much money have you sent to help the to the Jews of Ukraine? Do you seek to deny Jewish mothers and their children and other Jews medicine and help they desperately need? Do you wish to spread hate, contempt, and mutual distrust. Thankfully, you do not reflect the views of the vast majority of the Jewish people.


      Eliyahu….YOU ARE WRONG.

    • Luigi Rosolin (@LuigiBelmont)

      Christian’s are not giving to Jews because we want some back or impose our faith. Our and your learning is base on scripture. Secondly in view to love our G-D, that for us is Jews and that our leader’s where Jews. Also don’t forget that many Jews are Christian. Judge by the fruits not words. Christianity certainly had done and keeps doing many wrong things but the overall is of good one. Israel had been reestablish by G-D using Christian western country not get confuse. You still wait for the Messiah to come: had ever been crossed your mind that Jesus was the one? Had you with open mind consider and search scripture and history for answer? I hope you will do, G-d bless you walk.

  • jim ainoris

    500000 Christians killed in sudan…..only Israel is saving women and children…Only the coming of Moshiach will stop this horror of man….Shalom

  • Julian Clovelley

    I truly hope it isn’t necessary but I would hope that were emergency evacuations advisable all nations would leap into action. It really would not be rocket science to get potential victims of the current disturbances out

    Thanyou Algemeiner for keeping tabs on this. Good work.

    This isn’t about “Jews” it is about all of us. Everyone needs to calm down in Ukraine, sit down, and talk. Peaceful solutions are easy when there is good will, an absence of anger, and a willingness to share.

    • judorebbe

      Great idea – Tell Putin

      • Joel

        Great Idea – Tell Obama & Merkle

  • Francine

    Thank G-d for Rabbi Eckstein and his work. There are many Christians who love Israel and see jews as G-d’s chosen people.
    I do wish those Jews wouldleave the Ukraine. what they see is not handwriting on the wall, but Mile high letters in day glo red(as in blood).
    Here in Israel, we have just celebrated Holocaust remeberance Day, Remembrance Day for all those who have died protecting Israel and today is Israel Independence Day.
    We Jews are supposed to be smart. If we are smart and remember history then leaving places like the Ukraine is the smart thing to do now.
    BTW, I feel the same way about American Jews. Its time they leave the US. The tartgeting has begun with the shooting at the Kansas Overland JCC. This is the tip of the iceberg.
    Should you ask about me: I left.I have lived in Israel for two years now. One of the reasons was the fear of anti Jewish actions growing in the US.
    No, things are not perfect in Israel. I am safer here than I ever was anywhere in the US. Today when there was a fly-over of the IAF tears of gratitude came to my eyes as I saw Hashem’s agents who protect me on a daily basis.
    Want to know where to come? come to Northern Israel.You are needed here.
    AmYisroel Chai!

  • Really

    Most of these people probably aren’t Jewish & any money given by Jewish orgs would be stolen. All real Jews had over 30 years to leave.

  • judorebbe

    Echoes in the Wind

    Composed by Dvorah Weiss, (early 1970s)

    Recorded by Ruach Revival, (circa 1973)

    ———- ———-
    Oh my child, hear the rhythm of the music that they play.
    It’s so easy to forget that there was once another day
    when the drum beat was a hoof beat, and their smiles were flaming swords.
    Oh what remains to tell us how they sinned.
    Our aged and our youth, they died defending truth.
    Their words are echoes in the wind.

    Hashem echod ushomo echod.
    That’s how they died that day.
    One is He till eternity.
    We cannot live any other way.

    The earth itself remembers how bitter was our loss.
    The sun recalls when day shined in the shadow of the cross.
    The forests, through the years were watered with our tears.
    Remember forever what has been.
    The sorrow and the pain are carried in the rain,
    and their words are echoes in the wind.

    Hashem echod ushomo echod.
    That’s how they died that day.
    One is He till eternity.
    We cannot live any other way.

    The mountains saw the tortures, the fires, and the wrath.
    They watched courageous multitudes all perish in their path.
    The smoke filled shrouds became eternal clouds
    to rise above the misty din.
    The violence and the hate, no, they don’t just dissipate.
    Oh, listen to the echoes in the wind.

    Hashem echod ushomo echod.
    That’s how they died that day.
    One is He till eternity.
    We cannot live any other way.

    The music seems so different, they say it’s a new day.
    With smiles upon their faces, they extend their hands our way.
    We hold them not to blame, but their goals are still the same.
    The torch is passed, it’s you who must begin.
    So carry your faith high, like the ones who had to die.
    Oh, answer them with echoes in the wind.

    Hashem echod ushomo echod.
    Answer them now this way.
    The Lord is one for all time to come.
    We cannot live any other way.

  • Mike P.

    Judaism explicitly weighs actions over all else.

    Christian philanthropy to Ukraine’s Jews is to be praised and emulated.

    • jB Silver

      Amen Sela.

  • Rick Brandt

    Hydrogen oxigen generators for cars, motor bikes, diesel, s home furnace, cook stove etc. This simple device has 2 spoons 1 tube 3mm plus,1 peanute butter jar with plastic lid. Cut holes for the 2 sp8ons opposite each other and the tube goes in the ddle. They get sealed by silicone caulk etc. Put 14 oz of water in the 16 ox jar, then 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in the water. Now mount the jar near air intake for car, motorbike, furnace, cook stove etc. The spoons need to be conhected to 12 volts from any battery. It uses very low current and bubnles up hydrogen and oxigennthat flows through the tube to the burning chamber. It will add 30-40% more miles, heat , cooking temp etc. Bless Ukraine and Russia

  • Adam

    I’m a Christian, of Ukrainian extraction, and I’m amazed at some of the comments here. Religious bigotry and intolerance goes in all directions, and is not limited to antisemitism. The ‘Maidan=neo-Nazis’ narrative is Putinist propaganda: even the far-right Pravyj Sektor is not antisemitic. You will find Ukrainian nationalists of all religious stripes, including Jews and Tatar Muslims. When people from a different religious background, from another country, offer help, don’t assume this is some sort of missionary plot. And there is nothing stopping Jews in any country from proselytizing themselves–in North America, there are many people from other religious backgrounds, or no religion converting to Judaism. The future of Judaism, like every other religion, lies in finding converts.


      G-D BLESS,

    • Zvi

      Adam, there has been – even prior to the recent conflict within Ukraine – a lot of open anti-Semitism in some parts of the country. There have been problems in this regard during Jewish religious pilgrimages to Uman, for example.

      In addition, most Jews outside of Israel have been subjected to multiple attempts by Christians to convert us. Many of these attempts include language which, while well intentioned, is incredibly offensive (for example, we’re all going to go to hell unless we are “saved” by becoming Christians). I have been subjected to several such attempts, mostly during high school and university.

      That said, the active anti-Semitism in the Ukraine today is likely the work of a vocal and violent minority, and given that some Jewish people hold elected office in the Ukraine, there must be millions of people in the Ukraine who not only don’t hate Jews but are willing to vote for them.

      And the vast, vast, vast majority of Christians – even very religious Christians – that I have met have never tried to convert me and have displayed only decency toward me.

      As for proselytizing, Jews simply don’t do that. It may be difficult for Christians to understand, but Judaism does not seek to remake the world in our own image. If someone comes to us, they study for 6-12 months, until they understand the religion that they are joining. If at the end of that time, they are serious about becoming Jewish, then we accept them gladly. But we are not expansionist and do not seek converts, period.

  • Gavin

    Why are the two people in the back wearing balaclavas to cover their faces? Just curious.

  • Mel

    Like the fearful Hebrews fleeing Egypt, seeing the Sea of Reeds blocking their escape route and Pharaoh’s chariots closing in behind, scolding ‘Moshe Rabinowitz’ for ridding them of their physical (but not emotional) bondage, the Jews of Ukraine (like those of the United States) prove “you can lead a horse to water, but cannot make him drink!”

  • judorebbe

    Great !!! Sharks are saving Jews from other sharks.

    Considering the past twenty centuries of “Christian love”, the “Fellowship (ugh!) of Christians and Jews” has motives which are, at best, very suspect.

    The disgrace is that too many (real) Jewish “leaders” have been MIA in helping Ukrainian Jews in their time of desperate need. Apparently, tikkuning the olam doesn’t seem to extend to their fellow Jews.

    • Andrew

      Brother, Christian motives and help may be the last thing you want, but a significant segment of those who love the the G-d of Abraham, and the Israel of promise, who belong to the house of Mashiach Ben Yosef, also long for, pray for and give, in order that HaShem will regather his precious and unique Nation, to the land of promise. The shaking of the late olives has started, the hunters are gathering and it’s way past time for you to make Aliyah.

  • Ron

    As usual, most wealthy Jewish Americans have abandoned their brothers and sisters in the Ukraine just like they’ve abandoned Israel. Thank HaShem for people like Rabbi Eckstein and philanthropists like Sheldon Adelson and others who care about the future of the Jewish people.

    • Zvi

      The fact that IFCJ is helping does not mean that more exclusively Jewish groups are not. Unless you can prove your claim, give it a rest.

  • SHmuel HaLevi

    I wish them well but the choose their own fate by staying at or “returning” to known anti-Semitic cesspools.
    We have our own families and needs so regretfully they will have to either leave the Galut they chose or face the inevitable consequences. Assimilation, pogroms, fear and sickness. And eventually worse…

    • Michael Garfinkel

      Gee, Shmuel, I’m sure they are reassured by your well-wishes.

    • Your Israel wouldn’t last a month without Jewish American financial aid and wouldn’t last a day without Jewish American lobbying on behalf of Israel. We American Jews “have our own families and needs so regretfully” the piggish Jewish State will have to make it on its own. Bite the hand of your financially, demographically, and *ethically* superior goles-yidn and learn to live on (hot) air.

  • NCS

    We thank G-d for The Rabbi. He has done a miraculous job of connecting Christian philanthropy to Jewish needs. We pray that all Jews are safe and well provided for in this time of great upheaval in Ukraine and that all Jews will be provided with the means to make Aliyah quickly.

    • judorebbe

      Christian philanthropy to Jewish needs ??? Do you really think that is the true motivation of Missionary Christians?

      • Sonia Willats

        The history of “Christianity” over the past 1600 years is despicable, beyond words. Sadly, the overwhelming percentage of “Christians” HAVE NO IDEA of their despicable history. THIS DOES NOT UNDERMINE THE GENUINE GOODWILL OF RABBI ECKSTEIN’S WORK, HIS SUPPORTERS AND ORGANISATIONS LIKE C.U.F.I. who do not try to convert Jews to Christianity, but to genuinely support Jews, Israel and inter-community dialogue. Both of these organisations are to be HIGHLY COMMENDED in their work. To desire to make genuine restitution is right and commendable. So I disagree with you this time, Judorebbe, though I often agree with your comments.

      • Ilbert Phillips

        The answer is yes. Judaism evaluate a person’s conduct and not what one believes a person believes. Many Christians have become a friend of the Jew over the last thirty years because it is the right thing to do. Get used to it.

      • Steve M

        Chip on your shoulder, chum? Do you not know that any Christian worthy of the name knows that “salvation is of the Jews”, as Jesus said; knows that Jesus was first and foremost a JEW, who came to fulfill the law; knows that the Jews are G-d’s chosen people and that Israel is their land, by divine decree? and will back Israel in any action against Iran?

        This week our (UK) Torah study group will be receiving teaching from a Rabbi from Boston, and many members of the group will be visiting Israel soon.

        I can’t answer for the sins of Christian churches down the centuries, but I can assure you that the individual Christian whose spiritual eyes are open is right behind you all. G-d bless Israel.

      • OyGevalt

        So typical. Rebuffing outpourings of sincere love real Christians have for Jews by throwing up the tired canard of ‘true motivations.’
        Better Jews suffer and die, right?

        How do you suppose the dreaded ‘missionary’ Christians will unduly affect suffering Ukranian yidden half a world away? Perhaps they are secretly writing New Testament verses on their dollar bills?

        Like we have so many friends in this world we can afford to alienate genuine ones who have proved their friendship over and over again by opening their hearts and wallets.

        Thank G-d for this rabbi and his merciful work!

      • jB Silver

        I have met many of these people as a licenced tour guide in Israel, and in my travels. YES, THAT IS THEIR TRUE MOTIVATION.
        There are Christian missionaries out there, but these are not. And what are YOU doing to help, besides writing offensive messages under a pseudonym.
        I, a G-D Fearing Shomer Mitzvot Traditional Jew, who worships ONLY Elokei Yisrael, who served in Zahal for 36 months of compulsory service, and did active Miluim for almost 23 years in a battle unit in Zahal, and who lives in Jerusalem, Israel, where I defended myself with my gun 4 years ago when 4 Arab criminals attacked me just before Pesach, shooting one of them;
        I’m here to tell you that ALL the members of Rabbi Eckstein’s group I’ve met, and all the members of the ICEJ (International Christian Embassy Jerusalem), and large numbers of Christians United For Israel, the world over, are ONLY dedicated to helping Jews, partially as atonement for past evils, of which we do agree, there were many and horrific; and mainly because they acknowledge that WE are G-D’s Chosen People.
        Your lack of trust in them I understand; your hurtful words I do not.

      • Sonia Willats

        Judorebbe. I think the ones who give to Rabbi Eckstein are giving in order to give and heal pain, and they probably have an awareness of the wickedness of the past. IF THEY WANTED TO SUPPORT MISSIONS TO THE JEWS, THEY WOULD NOT BE SUPPORTING THIS V. CLEARLY ZIONIST RABBI.

        There is some good and some realisation amongst some Christians. Truly some love Israel as G-d’s chosen people.

        Having said that, the thought that Bibi may be considering handing over control of King David’s tomb to the Catholic church is HORRENDOUS AND LUNY. But that is another topic.

        • judorebbe

          Since 1975 I have been deeply involved in counter-cult and counter-missionary work (including infiltration, screening others who wanted to infiltrate, training those very few who actually were psychologically qualified to infiltrate, helping to bring Jewish kids out of such groups, and public outreach, including over 300 speaking engagements – mostly from 1978-1984). All on a volunteer basis. All with extreme opposition from the overly assimilated “official” Jewish community “leadership”, because of what our “good Christian neighbors might think”.

          In the late 1530s Martin Luther was making warm and fuzzy overtures toward the Jews in an attempt to missionize us and to gain us as allies in his fight against the Catholic Church. Upon realizing his failure to reach the Jews, within five years his writings were so vehemently Antisemitic that Hitler was able to quote Luther verbatim. Such is not an isolated example of Christian love becoming Christian hate. (