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Biography of Fr. James Bernstein

Father A. James Bernstein’s father Isaac, was born in 1909 in the Old City of Jerusalem where he was raised and was ordained an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi by the chief Rabbi of Palestine. Three of Fr. James’ four grandparents are buried on the Mount of Olives. In 1941, in the midst of World War II, his parents took what is believed to be the last civilian ship to leave the Holy Land for the U.S. traveling via Egypt and the southern route of Africa, as it was too dangerous to travel via the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Father James was born May 6, 1946 in Lansing, Michigan. Following the Holocaust his father lost faith in God as did many Jews and decided to live in a non-Jewish neighborhood in Woodhaven, Queens, New York. The family, nevertheless, attended a Conservative Jewish Synagogue. As a young man, Fr. James (who at that time was known as Arnold) was an active chess player. At 13 years of age he won the U.S. Junior Chess Championship in the under 16 years of age division. He also won the New York City High School Chess Championship three out of four years.

At 16 he had a major life changing experience. After reading and believing the New Testament Arnold experienced a very dramatic intense Christian conversion experience. He became an independent Evangelical Protestant Christian but never joined a church. While living in Israel for one year in 1967, on the border of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the Six Day War broke out. Following the war he was among the first to move into the Old City, living with Arab Christians near where his father was born.

On returning to America, he became President of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Queens College of the City University of New York where he received his BA in Economics in 1970. Following graduation, he moved from New York to the San Francisco Bay Area with Moishe (Martin) Rosen to establish a brand new Evangelical Protestant Ministry called “Jews for Jesus.”

During the early 70s he became a leader of what was called “The Jesus Movement” and was on staff of a Campus Crusade for Christ off shoot in Berkeley, California called Christian World Liberation Front headed by Jack Sparks. In 1975 he became a minister in the Evangelical Orthodox Church in Berkeley, Ca. but subsequently left them in 1981, with his wife and children, in order to convert to Canonical Orthodox Christianity (O.C.A.). For 8 years, from 1978 to 1985, Fr. James also worked as a senior production supervisor in Silicon Valley making integrated circuit “chips.”

In 1985 he moved to the New York City Area with his family, where he attended St. Vladimir Orthodox Seminary from 1985 to 1989 and received the Master of Divinity degree, May 1989. At the same time his wife Bonnie received her Master’s degree as a midwife from Columbia University. On July 10th, 1988 he was ordained a priest in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese and served for three years as assistant to Father Joseph Allen at St. Anthony’s in Bergenfield, New Jersey.

Since 1990, Father James has served at St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lynnwood, Washington, near Seattle where, in 1994, a new church temple was built. Father James was instrumental in bringing into the Orthodox Church a Protestant congregation in Arlington, WA called Grace Community Church. That church is now called St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church. He has served as Dean of the Pacific Northwest Deanery of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese since 1997 and on April 18th Archpriest. Fr. James has written a book entitled, Surprised By Christ: My Journey from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity, published by Conciliar Press in 2008 The foreword is written by His Beatitude Jonah (ROCOR).

Father James also has five booklets published by Conciliar Press entitled, “Orthodoxy: Jewish and Christian” / “Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament? / “Communion: A Family Affair: Why the Orthodox Church Practices Closed Communion,”/ “The Original Christian Gospel” Conciliar Press 2010, and “Heaven & Hell, The Divine Fire of God’s Love.”

Father James' wife Martha (Bonnie) is a nurse-midwife at Northwest Hospital in WA. Their oldest daughter Heather is married to Fr. David Sommer, who has a Mission Church in Snohomish, Washington, only 25 minutes from where Fr. James and his wife live. The Sommers have five children. Fr. James' second child Holly has a 4 year old and lives near the Sommers. Their third child Peter lives in Wa. State. Their fourth child Mary is married to J.D. Curry; they have three children and live in Eagle River, Alaska.