Major Evangelical-funded Israeli Charity Loses Three Top Executives

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Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship for Christians and Jews
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship for Christians and JewsCredit: Olivier Fitoussi

In a dramatic shakeup at one of Israel’s largest and most high-profile philanthropies, three senior executives are calling it quits.

That leaves the evangelical-funded International Fellowship for Christians and Jews without much of its senior leadership.

Jeff Kaye, director-general and executive vice president of the organization, will be stepping down at the end of December, as will Keren Claster, deputy CEO and director of human resources, and Yael Amar, director of program and content. Each of the three executives was employed at the organization for about five years.

Speaking with Haaretz, Kaye said that he and the other two executives were all leaving on good terms with the IFCJ and that the reason for their departure was that they wanted “to do other things.”

Asked whether he had suffered a fall-out with Eckstein, Kaye responded: “Are you kidding? I love the guy.”

Before joining IFCJ, Kaye spent 12 years at the Jewish Agency, in his last position serving as director of international fundraising efforts. He said he does not yet have another job lined up.

Reached for comment, Eckstein said he did not consider this string of departures a blow to the organization, which he founded 36 years ago and which raises about $140 million in charity each year. “The truth is I’m not even looking to fill those positions right now,” he said.

Eckstein disclosed that IFCJ recently hired Deloitte, the giant professional services organization, to prepare a strategic five-year plan for his organization. “I frankly don’t know what our vision should be now, and we need to better define our role in Israeli society and find a better way to distribute our funds,” he said. To date, the organization has focused mainly on fighting poverty and promoting immigration to Israel. It invests about $100 million each year in projects in Israel.

About four years ago, IFCJ set up an independent immigration promotion division that effectively competes with the Jewish Agency of Israel. The first director of this division left after barely two months, the second director quit after three years, and a third was appointed just a year ago. This high rate of turnover is not uncommon for the organization.

The IFCJ is in the process of raising $60 million for its flagship project: a new building in Jerusalem that will serve as an activity center for evangelicals visiting Israel. As part of the new strategic plan for the organization, Eckstein said, promoting Christian tourism to Israel would become a top priority. “These are the people who will become Israel’s ambassadors,” he said.

Following a bitter dispute several years ago, Eckstein broke ties the Jewish Agency. The IFCJ had been donating millions of dollars each year to the Jewish Agency’s immigration promotion activities.  But after the Jewish Agency refused to give Eckstein the visibility and publicity he demanded, IFCJ withdrew his funding and set up his own independent operation.