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Sidney Frosh - Past President of the United Synagogue

22 August 1923 – 12 August 2012


Picture below from left to right: Sidney Frosh with the late Lord Jakobovits ZT"L

Sidney Frosh was probably widely known for having been President of the United Synagogue - a position in which he served from 1987 to 1992.  There will be few left who will recollect the enormous service he gave to child welfare through his work with Norwood Child Care in the 1950s and 1960s and the changes he wrought to the Jewish day school system over a thirty year period.

Sidney Frosh was born in Stepney in 1923, and like most East End boys of that era, was a pupil at the Jews’ Free School in Bell Lane. He was enormously gratified in later life to have had a child and three grand children attend the school, of which he was in due course to become a Governor and a Trustee. He was an active member of the Jewish Lads Brigade and would reminisce about the Dayanim of the London Beth Din taking Shabbat services at the annual pre war camp in full Brigade uniform.  During the war, whilst waiting to be old enough for active service, which he saw with the Royal Signals in France, he was a young volunteer at the Royal London Hospital during the Blitz.  He would go straight to the hospital from work, often sleeping overnight on one of the hospital beds.  During one attack, the force and proximity of the explosion threw him from the stretcher he was using as a bed to the other side of the room. 

His communal career got seriously underway on his return from France, when he became leader of a local youth club, which began a life of total commitment to the betterment of young Jewish people. It was at this time that Sidney Frosh married his forces sweetheart, Ruth Glicksman with whom he shared 48 very happy years.

In the early 1950s’ He was invited to join the Boys Welfare Committee of the Jewish Board of Guardians, the forerunner of today’s Jewish Care. This committee took responsibility for orphans, delinquents and youth at risk.  In due course, this led him to become active in Norwood and he was responsible for the transfer of troubled and challenged youngsters from the Board of Guardians to Norwood.  This was the start of a major influence he had on modernising Norwood at that time, encouraging the closure of the orphanage and advocating for child care services to be provided in local communities rather than an institution in South London.  He was also instrumental in establishing joint meetings of the Norwood and Ravenswood trustees which eventually led to the merger of these two charities. In the 1970s he was Chair of the Education Committee of the European Council of Jewish Communities.

After 15 years of active service with Norwood, during which Sidney Frosh chaired the Norwood Welfare Committee and was at one time Joint Treasurer, he became involved in the development of Jewish day schools through the London Board of Jewish Religious Education.  He encouraged the relocation of the Stepney Jewish Primary School to Ilford and the Bayswater Jewish Primary School to Kenton where it became the Michael Sobell Sinai School. In the 1990s’, whilst President of the United Synagogue, he played an active role in support of the creation of the Wolfson Hillel Primary School in Southgate and the Moriah Primary School in Pinner, King Solomon High School in Redbridge and eventually the relocation of his alma mater, JFS from Camden to Kenton.

Sidney Frosh became an Honorary Officer of the United Synagogue at the beginning of the 1970s’.  It was through his leadership that the London Jewish Chaplaincy Board was created and the first Jewish student chaplain was appointed.  He headed committees recommending the creation of informal youth activities under the auspices of the United Synagogue, the forerunner of today’s Tribe. With a policy paper called ‘Beginning Anew’, published in 1980 he put the appointment, pay and terms of service of Rabbonim on a professional footing and created in-service training and mentoring programmes for them.

By the late 1980s, he was President of the United Synagogue whilst continuing to run his furniture business and serving as a JP.  He led the Chief Rabbinate Council in the appointment of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, consulting widely with the provinces and Commonwealth and having discussions with all strands of British Jewry.  He continued to advocate for the support of Jewish Education as the future both for the United Synagogue and the Jewish community.  It would be fair to say that this passion for Jewish Education led him to encourage a level of expenditure which the membership fees could not sustain at that time. He concluded that the United Synagogue could probably benefit from a more commercial approach.  On that basis, he asked Stanley Kalms to provide recommendations for new structures for the United Synagogue. Sidney Frosh stood down as President in 1992 and then took on a new lease of communal life. He became a Trustee of various grant making charities including the Jews Temporary Shelter and, returning to perhaps the first communal passion of his life, he served a second term as Governor and then Trustee of the JFS. In one of those strange twists of fate, having begun life in Stepney, Sidney Frosh’s last few days were at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel where he passed away peacefully. He is survived by his three children, Professor Stephen Frosh who is Pro-Vice Master Birkbeck College, University of London, Hendon GP Dr Barbara Frosh and Professor Paul Frosh of the Hebrew University, their spouses Judith, David and Caroline and nine grandchildren.

Sidney Frosh was in addition to his communal work a very successful businessman. I knew him from the time I joined my father's cabinet hardware business in 1954. He was a competitor but as a director of S.Greenman Ltd he was recognised as the afficionado of the design of handles for the cabinet industry as well as bringing over from the USA many of their innovations in cabinet fittings that were to be accepted intp the U.K. I bought a business from him in 1968 and I found him to be of the highest integrity in his business dealings. He was a man of many parts and all of them good.
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