Monday, September 28, 2015


Among the sure things in Jewish organizational life that you can count on: if he hasn't been mentioned in the Jewish media for more than 30 days, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the Donald Trump of the charity world, will reappear to (a) trumpet his personal achievements and (b) kvetch about the organized Jewish communities refusal to recognize his triumphs and (c) appear in a posed photo with a refugee or impoverished Israeli or Holocaust Survivor. And, sure enough, as the chagim approached, there he was again in an article in The Jerusalem Post -- (September3, 2015) -- yes, IFCJ's Eckstein Decries Failures of Jewish Charities. I can picture the moment in the press room of The Jerusalem Post: "Hey, it's the IFCJ calling again. Get out the annual Eckstein article and print it."

Nothing herein is to deprecate the good works that the IFCJ starts (and, even sometimes, finishes) or Eckstein's fund raising acumen. But always...always...Yechiel's ego begins to creep in and, as in the case with JAFI (where his demands, among others, of a co-equal space on the JAFI letterhead with Keren Ha'Yesod and the Federation system -- even as those over their history have allocated hundreds of millions to JAFI -- were turned down), eventually led to a public argument and a public split. It appears that all Eckstein institutional relationships end up shattered.

Earlier this year, you will recall, Yechiel attacked the Jewish Agency upon withdrawing the IFCJ funding of Jewish Agency activities and, instead, setting up his (and I use the pronoun "his" with precision) own IFCJ small scale aliya program in the Ukraine -- a program he has since expanded. I have always wondered how the Fellowship's decisions are made -- there is a Board out there somewhere but it certainly appears that, the many staff members notwithstanding, this is a one man show -- and Yechiel assures that that "one man" will be...Yechiel. Now, he has expanded the scope of his wrath beyond JAFI to "Jewish charities."


Well, it seems that "organized Jewish charities" -- viz, federations and their ilk -- may not share Rabbi Eckstein's stated and unstated goals. And, to Rabbi Eckstein, they are, therefore, ignoring their responsibilities. So, what's Yechiel upset about now?
"Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Eckstein said that mainstream Jewish philanthropy was not adequately addressing issues such as the security of Jewish institutions in vulnerable countries, the welfare of Holocaust survivors in both Israel and the Diaspora, and bringing Jewish Ukrainian refugees to Israel."
Of course, as Eckstein well knows (as he serves or has served on the Boards and Executive Committees of the Jewish Agency and the JDC) the federation system's partners (at least those JFNA calls "partners") have continuously "addressed" these matters. And, through the efforts of the Claims Conference has been allocating hundreds of millions over the decades focused on Holocaust survivors and, with the JDC, rebuilding Jewish communities "in vulnerable countries." And, one can question whether Eckstein would be complaining about let alone operating his own aliya operation in Ukraine has the Jewish Agency merely capitulated to his multiple-paged list of demands that he nailed to the Sachnut door.

Yes, I have decried the federations and JFNA's abandonment of their overseas responsibilities reflected in the lowest allocations to the core budgets of JAFI and JDC, but I also have long experienced the disingenuous attacks of Rabbi Eckstein on the system when it serves his own purposes. So, when I read something like this in the Post, I can only laugh:
"He also criticized such charities for having excluded the IFCJ from public collaboration with them"
Sorry, Yechiel, but the reality is quite different, isn't it? And that reality is that it is Yechiel Eckstein who has serially killed his and his IFCJ's collaboration with: the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the United Jewish Appeal and, most recently, the Jewish Agency -- each time with anger and wholly imagined slights. Could the JDC be next?

Well, probably not given that the Joint is willing to stoop as low as institutionally possible to maintain its relationship with the IFCJ. Example? On the day after we observed Rosh Ha'Shanah 5776, the JDC bought an ad in at least The Jerusalem Post celebrating not the Holiday but...
"The Joint...wishes the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, under the leadership of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
                     Shana Tova -- a sweet and happy New Year
JDC is a proud operational partner of IFCJ, providing food and medicine to needy..."
Maybe that ad will buy JDC another year of peace with the IFCJ, but the Joint's leaders must know that you can't buy Yechiel's eternal partnership, as said about others you can only rent it for a while. And, when it all falls apart, as inevitably it will, it will be the Joint's fault for sure.

Again, none of this is to deprecate the often wonderful work the IFCJ has led, the important contributions Yechiel has made to the creative survival of our People. But every contribution seems to require being accompanied by public whining and the constant need for coddling and supplication. And that's never going to change.



Anonymous said...

That's an example of the Joint stooping "as low as institutionally possible" -- an ad in the Jerusalem Post? Because it looks like the Joint is willing to thank its most generous donors in a consistent ad campaign that JAFI and JUF never even bothered to do. Call me old-fashioned, but showing gratitude goes a long way.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You really hate the Joint, don't you, Richard? Why is that?

Anonymous said...

Actually, Rabbi Eckstein has added his daughter to his one man show. Perhaps it is no longer a dictatorsjip and is becoming more of a monarchy, although it is doubtful that anyone can really question the King and get away with it.
Good work is indeed being done with the large amounts of money that his organization raises but it could utilized so much more effectively if he were only capable of true collaboration and partnership and not so caught up in what seems to be a desire to be crowned King of the Jews and to downgrade everyone else involved.
Anyone have an idea how much he spends on PR ust to pay for his own personal image marketing?

Anonymous said...

Richard, I am surprised at you. Ok, maybe only a little. It is wrong to laugh at someone else's misfortune. Rabbi Eckstein has made tremendous accomplishments on behalf of the Jewish People. But what you also unmask is that Yechiel has suffered his entire life from Narcisistic Personality Disorder. See below:

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:

Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

Requires excessive admiration

Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Yechiel maintains a perfect score. Another trait is victim hood. Yechiel isalways a victim of the institutions he works with.

As a strategic consultant in Israel, I always warn my clients to front load their expenses in grants from Eckstein, because as sure as day follows night, he will find a reason to blow up the relationship. He NEVER pays in full any pledge he makes. He always blows up the relationship before his payment is complete.

Eckstein is worthy of many things, 1) our admiration for his accomplishments and contributions. 2) our pity for his mental disorder and 3) our contempt for his behavior.

The proper Bracha is: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam meshaneh habriyot.

RWEX said...

To the Anon (of course, Anonymous) who has accused me of "hating" the Joint, Wrong, again. I admire the Joint for its leadership and its incredible work on the ground. When I used to visit communities to urge greater allocations to the JDC and JAFI, I could not have been more proud than to deliver the Joint's message; and I was joined by representatives of JDC on many occasions as my partner. No one who has delivered food and medicine to an elderly Jew living in poverty but with great pride in the Ukraine should ever be accused of anything but passionate admiration of the Joint's work. Having received the JDC Gemulat Chesed award for my service to the organization, and having served on its Board and its Executive I have always held JDC and its leaders in high regard.

This regard doesn't immunize any organization from observed criticism when earned. Does it?

RWEX said...

...and to the Anon (of course, Anonymous) who believes the JDC ad is an appropriate way of "thanking" Rabbi Eckstein, you seem to know nothing about the manner in which Chicago's JUF thanks its most major donors (no it hasn't taken out ads in media to do so) -- as they say, the results speak for themselves.

Anonymous said...

So why do you have a blog that allows anonymous posts if you attack the anonymous posters?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:43 here. If you read what I posted, I didn't actually write that the JDC ad is an appropriate way of thanking Eckstein. I was questioning your comment that an ad in the Jerusalem Post is an "example" of "stoop[ing] as low as institutionally possible." I didn't write to defend the Joint -- they can defend themselves. I wrote to point out that you wrote something a little ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

JUF hasn't taken out ads in media to thanks its most major donors? Really? Do you read newspapers much?

RWEX said...

1. Last Anon (of course, Anon) you would like readers to believe that JUF print ads thanking corporate sponsors is the same as a print ad thanking mega-donors to JUF by name. If you have a single example of the latter, send it on and I will apologize.

To the Anon whose imbecility I just rejected -- bad try...again.

Anonymous said...

Here I am, last Anon -- but you're misrepresenting what I'm saying. I'm not saying that JUF prints ads is the same as JDC thanking donors. I was quoting you. You said that they're not the same; I'm saying, at the end of the day, yes they are. We all (federations, JAFI, JDC, etc etc) do the same kinds of recognition to our major and mega donors. Some do it better, some do it less-well. The Joint does it well (and I think you resent this, at least from what you write). But to twist my words is unfair.

Anonymous said...

So, Anon, the problem is that Richard "misinterpreted what" you wrote? Really? Here is what you wrote: "JUF hasn't taken out ads in media to thanks its most major donors? Really?" It is totally clear that you wrote that JUF has published ads thanking its most major donors as JDC published an ad thanking Eckstein. Then, when challenged, you assert that Richard "misinterpreted" what you had stated clearly and absolutely with such certainty that you added the sarcastic "Do you read papers much?" I and other readers are waiting for you to offer a single example of a print ad inserted by JUF that is even close to that pitiful "thank you" offered by the Joint. (Or, how about an ad placed by the JDC thanking the federations for the hundreds of millions they have allocated to the JDC's work?)

Anonymous said...

Overrepresented Anon back here again.

Don't misinterpret what I wrote. Read what i wrote. I didn't make comparisons between JDC and JUF in THE CONTENT of how they thank donors. I wrote that, at the end of the day, they do, essentially, the same thing: they write nice ads and publish them. Like my federation, like yours. Yes, maybe JUF is more subtle and less 'pitiful' than JDC. But it's basically the same. (Kudos on the 'pitiful' comment about a fundraising tactic -- I think that's the first time I've ever seen such a misunderstanding of the word).

And yes, I've seen lots of ads in which the Joint thanked the federations. And I've seen JDC cultivate relations, provide updates, bring speakers and more to the federations which others could only learn from. Certainly my federation.

RWEX said...

OK, I have printed your Comment but only out of respect for your tenacity. Now COULD YOU PLEASE MOVE ON!!