I grew up in the South of the United States, in the buckle of the Bible Belt. There were three or four Jewish families in my small hometown and I knew nothing about them. I always wanted to know. My Jesus is a Jew. I do remember one Sunday, Mrs. Cook brought in one of the Jewish men of our town, who talked to us about Christianity's Jewish roots. I always wanted to know more.
Fast forward to my time in the Midwest in an area where there are lots of Jewish families. My children learned about Jewish traditions and holidays from friends from school. And then we learned about Friendship Circle and began to learn even more. (The Jewish community reaches out to families with special needs children in a way that Christians do not.) I longed for a collaboration between the Christian community and the Jewish community in terms of serving families with children with special needs and sometimes vocalized my desire on deaf ears in my Christian circles. Now we live in the South again, where we don't interact with Jewish families on a daily basis and I don't know where to begin thinking about a collaboration.
When I was given the opportunity to review The Bridge Builder: The Life and Continuing Legacy of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, I was thrilled.
No, the story is not about serving families with special needs. It has nothing to do with special needs.
The story is Rabbi Eckstein's incredible journey bridging the gap between Christians and Jews and between United States and Israel, from a culture that forbade him from interacting with evangelicals to not only interacting, but building relationships with evangelical Christians - and the price he paid to do so. As he went against the teaching of his culture and religion, he sometimes sacrificed his reputation and his friends and family in order to build this bridge.
The book is as much a history book as it is a biography, giving the reader insight into the world political stage and the religious and political climates in Israel and the United States at the times of different events on Rabbi Eckstein's timeline in the last 40 years. I haven't studied history in years, my memory and understanding are weak and fuzzy and I need the detail for my understanding as I read.
I never gave much thought to how much work would have to happen to bring Jews and Christians together in ministry. One would just ask the other and the other would say 'yes'. The effort has not been a simple one. There have been big barriers to work around and remove. The process has been a labor of love over decades. I love Rabbi Eckstein's heart and how he followed the calling he felt from G-d. And I understand a little better some of the challenges that need to be addressed for a collaboration in terms of helping families with a child with special needs.
Author Zev Chafets goes into great detail to give the reader enough background and context and he gives the reader an authentic look into the life of Rabbi Eckstein, good, bad, ups, downs. He's human. And he loves people. I enjoy the peek into Rabbi Eckstein's life. I suspect that you may enjoy it, too.
Know this: His work is ongoing; there is more to his story yet to unfold. Follow Rabbi Eckstein on the internet and social media to see what events are added to his story. Don't miss the social media - the Rabbi Eckstein web site offers a free chapter of the book.