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Yael Eckstein, IFCJ President,
on the Incredible Gift of Speech

Yael Eckstein

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews(The Fellowship) was founded in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and build broad support for Israel. Today it is one of the leading forces helping Israel and Jews in need worldwide, and is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel. Founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship now raises more than $120 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist Israel and the Jewish people. Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.8 billion for this work. The organization has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Toronto, and Seoul. 

Yael Eckstein, President and CEO, oversees all ministry programs and serves as the international spokesperson for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Prior to her present duties, Yael served as Global Executive Vice President, Senior Vice President, and Director of Program Development and Ministry Outreach. Based in Israel with her husband and their four children, Yael is a published writer and a respected social services professional.

Yael Eckstein has contributed to The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and other publications, and is the author of three books: Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to Our Children, Holy Land Reflections: A Collection of Inspirational Insights from Israel, and Spiritual Cooking with Yael. In addition, her insights into life in Israel, the Jewish faith, and Jewish-Christian relations can be heard on The Fellowship’s radio program, Holy Land Moments, which airs five times per week on over 1,500 radio stations around the world.

Yael Eckstein has partnered with other global organizations, appeared on national television, and visited with U.S. and world leaders on issues of shared concern. She has been a featured guest on CBN’s The 700 Club with Gordon Robertson, and served on a Religious Liberty Panel on Capitol Hill in May 2015 in Washington, D.C., discussing religious persecution in the Middle East. Her influence as one of the young leaders in Israel has been recognized with her inclusion in The Jerusalem Post’s 50 Most Influential Jews of 2020 and The Algemeiner’s Jewish 100 of 2019, and she was featured as the cover story of Nashim (Women) magazine in May 2015.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, outside of Chicago, and well-educated at both American and Israeli institutions – including biblical studies at Torat Chesed Seminary in Israel, Jewish and sociology studies at Queens College in New York, and additional study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem – Yael Eckstein has also been a Hebrew and Jewish Studies teacher in the United States.

We recently spoke with Yael Eckstein, IFCJ President, to hear her unique perspective as a leader, teacher, wife, and mother, and she was gracious to share some inspiring thoughts and words about the incredible gift of speech.

You have spoken about the awesome power of words to hurt and to heal, to create or destroy.You have drawn inspiration from the Bible and traditional Jewish teachings to illustrate this idea and inspire others.

I was wondering how you incorporate these ideas in your own life, and if you have any thoughts or recommendations for others who are working on improving in this area?

My family has a game that I want to share with you. Occasionally on Friday nights at our Shabbat meal, my family and I will play this really fun game. We start with one family member, and each person at the table has to say their three favorite things about that person. We’ll choose my husband, and everyone at the table will say three of their favorite things about my husband. Then we’ll go to each child, and everyone has to say three favorite things about that child, including the person that we’re talking about so that they can also see their good points. We move around the table until everyone has been showered with loving and encouraging words, and it is amazing to see how each child glows after his or her turn receiving the compliments. You know what? They also glow after they say something positive about others.

The joy in saying kind words is so huge that it brings peace to the heart, and joy to the family. Just as much as others enjoy hearing good things about themselves, the person saying good things feels good as well. They know that they’re creating something good in the world.

My husband and I want our children to experience not only how words can tear others down and hurt them, not only the sticks and stones, but also how the power of speech can build up another person and make others happy. We have the ability, my friends, to build people up like that every single day. To make them feel confident. To make them feel secure. To give them the strength that they need in order to go out into the world and do positive things. It is a chain reaction.

There are so many ways that we can use our speech in good ways. Number one, pray, praise God, thank God, and ask God for everything that you need. If we knew how powerful our prayers are, we would pray all day long. This is probably the most powerful use of our words because it connects us to God, with whom all things are possible. Use your words and speak to your Creator.

Number two, share God's word with family, friends, and neighbors. Sometimes when you’re sitting with someone who you might not have so much in common with, you might be inclined to say negative things. Instead, start talking about an inspiring teaching that you heard, or something that you read in the Bible that encouraged you. You can spread goodness in this way with anyone, whether you feel close to them or not.

Number three, say, “I love you.” Or let someone know that you care.

Number four, say, “I'm sorry,” when you have hurt someone or made a mistake. Sincere apologies are so hard, but they bring so much healing.

Number five, ask somebody, “How are you?” And really mean it.

Number six, give someone encouragement. It may make all the difference in their world. Tell them that you believe in them. You believe that they’re going to succeed, that they are going to thrive.

Number seven, give someone a compliment. It might just change their day.

Number eight, say, “Thank you” as often as you can. It makes other people feel good, and it keeps your own heart joyful and grateful.

Number nine, give someone a blessing. Blessings are our way of bringing God’s goodness into the world. As creations of God, as children of God, we have the amazing, huge, impactful power to bless. Use it. Bless your children. Bless your parents. Bless your friends, either to their face or when they’re not present. But bless them.

Number ten, and the last one for right now, say, “Amen.” This one word gives more power to all other words. There is more power in our words, my friends, than we might ever imagine. And every day we have the opportunity and the responsibility to use our speech to help people improve their own lives, and make the world a better place for everyone. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” The tongue holds the ultimate power, and this is why God gave it to two gatekeepers, the teeth and the lips.

We need to think twice before we open our mouth. We are creators. What do we want to create?

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