US asks congregants to cross out name of paedophile from siddurim

Greenbaum pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault on boys aged under 16


Jewish man praying

The United Synagogue has taken the extraordinary step of asking its leaders to erase the name of a convicted paedophile from an earlier edition of the Singer’s Siddur, the standard prayerbook for its communities.

In a memo to rabbis, rebbetzins, chairs and administrators, Jo Grose, the chief executive of the UK’s largest synagogue body, said they should “cross out” the name of Sidney Greenbaum because, as a “convicted child abuser, his name has no place in our holy books”.

Greenbaum received a six-month suspended sentence in 1990 after pleading guilty at Hendon Magistrates Court to three counts of indecent assault on boys aged under 16. He died aged 66 in 1996.

The novelist Naomi Alderman told the Guardian earlier this year that she had also been groomed and abused by Greenbaum when she was younger, saying 'He’s been dead since 1996. And it was the best thing he ever did for me, to die.'

His name appears in the centenary edition of the Siddur, released in 1990. In the introduction, dated January 1990, the then chief rabbi, Lord Jakobovits, thanked Greenbaum, a professor of English at University College London and a former Hasmonean High School teacher, for his contribution, describing him as an “expert in English syntax”.

The acknowledgment was reprinted in subsequent editions in 1992 and 1998.

In her memo, Grose, who was appointed last November, said: “For many of our communities, there will be no action to take given the siddurim in question are from some three decades ago and you won’t have any on your shelves.”

But, she continued, for those holding on to old copies, US “will be happy to arrange a collection of the old siddurim” to be put into storage prior to burial.

Otherwise, Greenbaum’s name should be crossed out, she said.

“The United Synagogue was informed by a member of the community that Sidney Greenbaum was a convicted child sex abuser,” Grose told the JC.

“We investigated [and] were sent a copy of the court document showing the conviction and took action. Although most of the siddurim in question are over 30 years’ old and even if they are rarely used, this man’s name has no place in one of our holy books.”

“The United Synagogue takes allegations of abuse extremely seriously and we encourage anyone with concerns, whether current or historic, to speak in confidence to our safeguarding team.”

A revised Singer’s with a new preface was published during Lord Sacks’s Chief Rabbinate in 2006 and a new edition of the prayer book with an introduction by Chief Rabbi Mirvis is out now.

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