Recently, I had a conversation with the pastor of a large church in California. This church has long been a friend and supporter of Jews for Jesus, giving more than $150,000 each year to all sorts of missions. The pastor called to discuss the merits of an organization his church is supporting called the Holy Land Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
The pastor had received an email from one of his congregants who had seen an article on our web site that was critical of this organization. He knew that Jews for Jesus is not in the habit of criticizing other ministries and so he was troubled. I explained to the pastor that friends and supporters ask us about this group so often we felt obligated to comment.
Many Christians believe that when they give to the Holy Land Fellowship of Christians and Jews (a.k.a. Rabbi Eckstein”) they are giving to a Christian organization run by a “Messianic rabbi.” When I explain that Yechiel Eckstein is not a believer in Jesus, and that in fact he opposes the gospel going to the Jewish people, most Christians I meet are shocked, dismayed and hurt. They feel betrayed and deceived.
Others however, including the aforementioned pastor, know that Rabbi Eckstein does not believe in Jesus. They give, as one would to a secular agency, because of the relief and social services that this organization provides. These people love the Jews and want to bless my people. I understand that they desire to support “mercy ministries” that benefit Jewish people, even if those organizations don’t believe those whom they help need Jesus. What is more, this particular pastor pointed out to me, On Wings of Eagles (Part of Rabbi Eckstein’s organization) offers to educate churches and individuals on subjects ranging from anti-Semitism to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and much more. The pastor informed me that the quality of their information was such that they were happy to continue supporting Eckstein.
I left two thoughts with that pastor and would like to leave them with you this month. First, Rabbi Eckstein’s organization has him in a position of middle man, disbursing funds as he sees fit to other organizations. He has no direct “mercy ministry” so donors are basically looking to him to choose organizations that are reputable. I am not questioning whether or not he chooses reputable organizations, but I believe that Christians would want to know this as a simple matter of stewardship so they can take knowledge of where their funds are going.
My second point has to do with the nature of mercy ministries themselves. I am for mercy ministries, but I like to view them in the context of what Jesus had to say: “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” (Mt. 10:42) I believe that mercy ministries are best and most meaningfully done in the name of Jesus or at least in the name of one of His disciples.
Now we come to the title of this article: A War of Wedges. Yechiel Eckstein is very skilled at leading Christians to believe that the best thing they can do for my Jewish people is meet the needs that his organization tends to. He probably believes this himself but it is important to realize that Rabbi Eckstein is no follower of Jesus and actually opposes those Jews who do follow Him. Notice I say those Jews who follow Him. Eckstein is famous for building bridges with Christians, but only those Christians who are not Jewish and who do not openly advocate Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and the only way to the Father.
Eckstein’s book, “What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism,” was reviewed in 1987 by Ray Gannon for the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE). Gannon observes Ecktein’s persuasiveness and his agenda to limit Christian witness to the arena of formal dialogue (presumably limited to the religious “experts”) rather than Christians sharing their convictions on a personal level and offering Jesus as a viable option to their Jewish friends. In addition, Gannon points out that, “Eckstein does not seem to allow for the sincere faith convictions of Jewish people who recognize Yeshua as Messiah and Lord. He fully disallows the rights of believing Jewish people to foster the continuation of their cultural experience as Jews. He seemingly demands that they despise and abandon Jewish culture as a punishment for their sincere faith.…In his attack upon Messianic Jews and Jewish evangelism, he has the audacity to dub Messianic believers, ‘Judaizers.’…Is his purpose to incite a Christian theological riot against Messianic Jews? Could he really be so genuinely ignorant of our theological posture?” Finally, Gannon points out that Eckstein suggests that “the rejection of Jesus as Messiah is the key to Jewish suvival.” (Quotes taken from Dr. Ray Gannon’s review of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s book, “What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism,” prepared for The Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (North American Regional Meeting in Chicago, March 25-26, 1987.)
Ray Gannon’s review hints at the wedge that a well-spoken and influential person like Rabbi Eckstein is capable of driving into the community of evangelical Christians. Christians who seek to be educated by Eckstein concerning the Jewish people should understand that he would love to see messianic Jewish groups and particularly Jewish missions “on the outs” with Christians whose prayers and support we need. Ultimately, it is not our needs, but the needs of our unbelieving Jewish people that we are talking about.
What my people need more than a cup of cold water is the living water which Jesus promised: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) Giving to mercy ministries is good. Yet, I question the wisdom (not the intentions) of giving a cup of cold water through those who would oppose efforts to offer the living water that Jesus wants us to offer to Jews as well as Gentiles. Thankfully, there are also Christian mercy ministries who give aid and support to needy Jewish people. If you are interested in supporting such ministries in Jesus’ name, contact us and we will pass along their information.
To all those loving Christians who have given help to my people through On Wings of Eagles or other such groups, I know God still will bless the gift and the giver. But wouldn’t it be better to give the help in Jesus name, and with the understanding that Jesus has even more to give to those who will seek Him? I think of the words of Jesus to the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)