James Bernstein

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Fr. James Bernstein, Pascha 2015

Very Reverend Fr. James Bernstein (May 6,1946 - ) is an Orthodox priest and author in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.


Father James Bernstein’s father, Isaac, was born in the Old City of Jerusalem. He was raised to be an Orthodox Jewish chassidic rabbi, but lost faith as did many Jews following the Holocaust of World War II. Three of Fr. James’ grandparents are buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Fr James (given name Arnold) was born in Lansing, Michigan on May 6, 1946 he was raised within Conservative Judaism in Queens, New York, where he lived for twenty-five years. During his teenage years he won many chess championships, including Amateur Championships at the Marshall Chess Club in Greenwich Village, and at thirteen the United States Junior Chess Championship (under sixteen years of age division). At sixteen Fr. James read the New Testament and had a dramatic conversion experience, subsequently becoming an evangelical Protestant. In 1967, while living in Israel for a year on the Israeli/Jordanian border between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the 6 Day War was fought. Following the war he was one of the first to move into the Old City of Jerusalem from the New City, living with an Arabic Christian family near where his father had been born.

Following his return to the United States he became President of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at Queens College of the City University of New York. Upon graduating from college in 1970 with a degree in economics, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with a Baptist pastor friend named Moishe Rosen and a few others in order to establish a brand new ministry called "Jews for Jesus." At that time Father James also became involved with "The Jesus Movement" and worked as a staff member of the Christian World Liberation Front located in Berkeley, California. This ministry was a radical street Christian ministry offshoot of Campus Crusade for Christ. During that time he was a founding member of Berkeley Street Theatre. In 1970 he met his future wife Bonnie, and they were wed in the Berkeley Hills in 1971.

In the later 1970s Fr. James worked in Silicon Valley as a senior production supervisor making integrated circuit “chips” while also serving as a pastor of an Evangelical Orthodox Church (a small Protestant denomination) on the path to becoming Orthodox. In 1981 he and his family were received into the canonical Orthodox Christian Church (Orthodox Church in America – O.C.A.) Four years later the Bernstein family, now expanded to six, moved to Crestwood, New York where he attended Saint Vladimir Seminary, receiving his Masters of Divinity degree in 1989. His wife worked as a registered nurse and received a Master's degree from Columbia University in midwifery. While at the seminary his friends in the Evangelical Orthodox Church movement became canonically Orthodox as they were received into the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. Soon after the Bernstein family transferred from the O.C.A. jurisdiction to the Antiochian Orthodox jurisdiction in order to be reunited with their Evangelical Orthodox friends within the Antiochian Archdiocese. In 1988 he was ordained a priest and given the ordained name of James (named after James the Just, the brother of the Lord and first bishop of Jerusalem). Two years later he was assigned to Saint Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Brier, Washington where he continued to pastor for over a quarter of a century.

In 1997 Father James was made Dean of the Pacific Northwest Deanery of the Antiochian Archdiocese, and in 1999 was elevated to the rank of archpriest. In 2017 Fr. James retired as pastor of St. Paul and became priest Emeritus. In addition to his ministry in the church and hobby of chess Fr. James also is an artist who paints in a post impressionistic Van Gogh style. As of present his wife and he have 4 children and 10 grand children. Their oldest daughter Kh. Heather is married to Fr. David Sommer and is an iconographer.

Books and Booklets

SURPRISED BY CHRIST: My Journey from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity. 2008. (Is in 4th printing).

At Ancient Faith Pub. : http://store.ancientfaith.com/surprised-by-christ/

At Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Surprised-Christ-Journey-Orthodox-Christianity/dp/1888212950/

(Is also translated and published in Romanian, Greek, Serbian and Russian.)

In Romanian: http://www.librariasophia.ro/carti-Uimit-de-Hristos-Calatoria-mea-de-la-Iudaism-la-Ortodoxie-Bernstein-James-A-pr-so-6275.html

In Greek: Website: https://www.politeianet.gr/books/9786188234116-bernstein-james-iera-moni-agion-theodoron-aroanias-i-apokalupsi-tou-christou-267486

In Russian: Website is: https://nikeabooks.ru/catalog/book/udivlennyy-khristom-moe-puteshestvie-iz-iudaizma-v-pravoslavie/

Published booklets include:

Orthodoxy: Jewish and Christian, 1990: https://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxy-jewish-and-christian/

Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament? 1994 http://store.ancientfaith.com/5-pack-which-came-first-the-church-or-the-new-testament/

Communion: A Family Affair (Subtitled: Why the Orthodox Church Practices Closed Communion), 1999. http://store.ancientfaith.com/communion-a-family-affair/

Heaven and Hell: The Divine Fire of God’s Love, 2009. http://store.ancientfaith.com/heaven-and-hell-the-divine-fire-of-gods-love/

The Original Christian Gospel, 2010. http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-original-christian-gospel/

Discovering the Prophecies of Christ, 2016 http://store.ancientfaith.com/discovering-the-prophecies-of-christ/

He was a contributor to the Orthodox Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1993,

Wrote the introduction to the book: A Second Look at the Second Coming, Ancient Faith Press, 1999.


Contributing chapter to: Berkeley Street Theatre, 2017, Wipf & Stock.


Other Links

Books and booklets published by Ancient Faith Pub.: http://www.ancientfaith.com/contributors/james_bernstein

Paintings of Fr James: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/arnold-bernstein.html

Daughter Kh. Heather Sommer’s iconography: http://www.heathersommericons.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=831768674