As the new head of the International “Fellowship” that helps 1.5 million people a year, she has taken what her father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, built and is adding her own vision to the 36-year-old organization.
It’s traumatic enough to experience the loss of a beloved parent, especially one who dies suddenly at the age of 67. But in February, soon after burying her father, Yael Eckstein had to undergo a second trauma.
She had to sit at his desk.
Because Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein was not only her dad but, as the founder and president of the $1.6 billion International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, known as the Fellowship, for 15 years, he was also her boss. “All that time I’d always been on the other side of the desk,” she says eight months later. “Sitting in his chair was very, very hard, but it was something I knew I’d have to do eventually.”
First, however, she had to cry for her father. “His death was so sudden. And I knew for shiva I needed to be just a daughter who’d suddenly lost her dad and was already missing him.”
After those seven days of mourning were over for her and her two sisters, and she’d shed her tears, Eckstein got to work. “I could have taken a few months, but I believed I needed to show that we weren’t going to let all the people who rely on us—or our donors—down, that there would be no gap in services.”
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