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Celebrating Women of Faith

This week, on February 26, we welcome the Hebrew month of Adar. This month contains the Holiday of Purim, and beginning on the first of the month, the messages of the Book of Esther, which we read every Purim, are particularly relevant.

Yael Eckstein waves to an onlooker as she welcomes Jewish migrants from the Ukraine to their new home in Israel at Ben-Gurion International Airport in February 2019. | IFCJ

A Time of Happiness and Joy, Gladness and Honor

The first of Adar is also the Hebrew date of my father's passing. Looking back now, I can see that it is no coincidence that God chose that date to call him home.

At my father's funeral, I noted that the month of Adar encapsulates his life's work. The Purim story tells how, "For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor" (Esther 8:16) as they were saved after a period of extreme hardship. Similarly, my father brought joy and comfort to so many Jews in difficult situations.

Such a Time as This

However, I see now that Adar not only fits my father's life story, but also my own. It was the story of Esther that gave me strength during those first difficult weeks after my loss, and it's the story that has inspired me throughout the year.

When my father died, I lost not only a parent, but also my mentor and predecessor. I had worked with my father at The Fellowship for over 15 years and I had already been chosen as the next President of the organization. With his passing, I became one of the few female leaders of any comparable non-profit organization in the United States and Israel.

Was I ready to lead? Could I do my job without my father's guidance and support? My doubts quickly dissipated as I realized that, just as God had prepared Esther for "such a time as this," He had been preparing me my entire life for that very moment. And I knew that just as God helped Esther succeed in her mission, He would surely help me in mine.

Growing up, my parents instilled in me the belief that I could achieve any goal that I was called to. I am the youngest of three girls, and my parents were very aware that they were raising women in a world often dominated by men. My father told me that as a woman of faith, there was nothing I could not do — and my mother led by example.

Women of Faith

In our home, we celebrated the women of the Bible. Every year on Purim, we focused on Esther and her unique role as one of the only women to serve as a biblical hero and the only woman for whom a Bible book is named. Esther was just a young orphaned girl, but through her courage and faith, she succeeded in eliminating the evil Haman and saved the Jewish people.

Through Esther's example, I learned what it means to be a strong, obedient, and faithful servant of God. When it was time for me to step out in faith in my own life, I had Esther and other biblical women to guide me and serve as powerful sources of encouragement.

Soon, on March 8, the world will mark International Women's Day, recognizing the contributions of women to our world. How appropriate that this day will fall in the Hebrew month of Adar, the same month that highlight's Esther's heroism. History is filled with great women who, like Esther, courageously changed the world for the better.

As we celebrate women this month, I am particularly grateful for women of faith, both past and present. From biblical women to the women of my own family and community, my life and my character have been profoundly enriched by extraordinary women of God. I hope that you will join me in acknowledging great women of faith – may we know them, may we raise them, and may we appreciate them always!

Yael Eckstein is the president of the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews. As President, Eckstein oversees all ministry programs and serves as the organization’s international spokesperson. She can be heard on The Fellowship’s daily radio program airing on 1,500 stations worldwide. Before her present duties, Yael served as global executive vice president, senior vice president, and director of program development and ministry outreach. Based in Jerusalem, Yael is a published writer, leading international advocate for persecuted religious minorities, and a respected social services professional. As President of The Fellowship, she also holds the rare distinction of being a woman leading one of America’s largest religious not-for-profit organizations.

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