by Monomakhos (George Michalopoulos and Gail Sheppard)

Early this morning, at 5:23 am, American Orthodoxy lost one of its leading lights when Archpriest A James Bernstein reposed in the Lord (link here). 

Many encomia will be written about him (and rightly so). I would like to add a few personal words of my own. I hope you don’t mind.

This morning, as Gail and I were driving through the beautiful Choctaw nation of southeastern Oklahoma, she asked me if I had heard anything more about Father James. Father David Hovik had been keeping us “in the loop” by sending us photographs of Father with family and friends.

The last message we received was two days ago. We knew the time was near.

Father David sent us the news of his passing. We said a little prayer of gratitude for having him in our lives and for all those who were touched by him and saddened by his passing.

We are among them.

Father James was one of those people who loved without expectation, who loved for love’s sake. If you needed to talk something through, he’d be there. If you needed “bucking up,” he’d send you something encouraging.

Our personal relationship with him began with his book Surprised by Christ, which I believe has now been translated into several languages. For those of you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do so, as he was a great writer.

His journey from Orthodox Judaism to Orthodox Christianity was nothing short of amazing. A founding member of Jews for Jesus, there were many twists and turns along the way. His writing style captured the immigrant experience in ways that I, as a Greek-American, could really appreciate. I told him so on more than one occasion and asked him (implored him) to write a sequel.

Alas, that was not to be.

His greatest book, however, was his life as a priest. The ending to his life was part of that book and if one could have a great one, he did. He faced his passing with courage, and filled his days with that which is important. What a joy it was to witness. Always the teacher. Teaching us to the very end. When it’s time to let go, it’s time to “let go.”

Gail and I ask that you join us in prayer as he is welcomed into the bosom of his father, Abraham.

His absence from our world will be acutely felt by many, but because he was a stalwart of the Faith, I have no doubt we will continue to feel his prayers. The light of some men cannot be extinguished and Father James was such a light.

Shalom l’khaim, Father. Your memory is eternal.


  1. May his Memory be eternal! Glory to God for Father James having found his way to the true Faith, the fulfillment and continuation of faithful Israel. The Israel of God, the Church! What a witness and true testimony of God’s faithfulness and his work within the human heart.

  2. As I have close to eight decades on earth.. I have witnessed Jewish people converting to Christian Orthodox because of this man.


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