Susan Felt, a reporter for the Arizona Republic newspaper, speculated that perhaps a minister in Phoenix was being directed by the “voice of God” regarding real estate transactions.  

Jonathan BernisThe man supposedly tuned in to heaven is Jonathan Bernis, who heads a so-called “Messianic Jewish” group.

Bernis’s full-time work, essentially funded by evangelicals, is to specifically target Jews for conversion to fundamentalist Christianity. He also stages festival events and programs designed to superimpose christological significance upon Jewish holidays and rituals.

Bernis calls himself a “rabbi,” but seems as likely to be seriously considered one as Mel Gibson.

The controversial organization he leads was initially launched by Louis Kaplan in 1968, an evangelist ordained by the largest Pentecostal denomination, known as the Assemblies of God.

Kaplan called his radio show the “Jewish Voice Broadcast” and once boasted that “Messianic Jews…would conquer even the biggest rabbis in this country.”

Louis KaplanHowever, when the evangelist died in 1998, what he had accomplished could largely be measured in property assets.

Bernis got the keys to Kaplan’s kingdom, which was later renamed “Jewish Voice Ministries International” (JVMI) and it includes radio shows, television broadcasts and a bi-monthy magazine.

Apparently both savvy business administrator and fundraiser Bernis grew the ministry steadily building upon Kaplan’s lucrative legacy. According to Charity Navigator JVMI took in total revenue of $5,729,219 in 2005. And the net assets of the ministry are now in the neighborhood of $5 million.

Bernis has even jumped aboard ships, guiding custom “Christian cruises” in the Caribbean, to purportedly “help needy Jewish believers in the land of Israel.” 

But the peripatetic pastor seems most proud of his efforts to convert Russian Jews.

In the JVMI publication “Jewish Voice Today” Bernis is critical of eccumenical dialogue between Christians and Jews, which has led to “full acceptance and respect.”

Instead, he favors continued confrontation and claims there is “no choice” for “bible believers.”

Of course without such confrontation bent upon conversion, Bernis would be out of business. 

According to Ministry Watch during the latest real estate boom between 2001 to 2004 the net assets of JVMI more than tripled from less than $1 million to more than $3 million dollars.

JVMI, like a similar group called “Jews for Jesus,” is also a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. 

The Republic newspaper reported details of Bernis’s latest business plan, which is to move the ministry during March from its old home of 27 years within pricey Northeast Phoenix, to a bigger building on less expensive land in the more moderately priced Northwest section of the city.

The old property that took Louis Kaplan decades to build up is apparently about to be flipped.

And according to Bernis this is “a miracle.”

The self-proclaimed “rabbi” told The Republic he believes in “a very real personal God who performs miracles.”

But does the same God that parted the Red Sea also do Phoenix real estate deals?

It appears Jonathan Bernis thinks so.


2 comments untill now

  1. “But does the same God that parted the Red Sea also do Phoenix real estate deals?”

    I think in the current Phoenix real estate market it would be almost impossible to do a fair-market value “flip” without a powerful God pulling some strings with buyers.
    This will be an interesting real estate transaction to follow in this cooling market. Hopefully you will keep us posted.

    Happy New Year, all.

  2. ragamullin @ 2007-01-12 00:30

    When I was a kid I had a top. If you take a long string you could put a log of spin on it.
    Your article has so much spin you must have used a very long string, make that a very looooooooong string.