If you happen to meet a Deputy wearing a Fulham shirt and sporting an accent from the American south, then that man will almost certainly be Bruce Greenberg.
The Deputy for Northampton Hebrew Congregation stands out for many reasons. Apart from being the only Deputy to grow up in Birmingham, Alabama, he also lives in a small town in Northamptonshire, has a regular show on hospital radio and does commentaries for his local football club, AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
Bruce moved to the UK with his wife almost 19 years ago. He explains: “My wife had the opportunity to study for a PhD at Oxford. So we decided to start life over when we were in our 50s. We thought London would be too expensive and we knew, having been here before, that Northamptonshire was centrally located, so we moved to the small town of Rushden.”
Shortly after their arrival, Bruce looked up his local synagogue in the Yellow Pages – it turned out to be Northampton Hebrew Congregation. “We attended services at Rosh Hashanah, stayed in touch with the shul and eventually became members.”
When Bruce opened his shul membership bill there was something he didn’t immediately recognise. “I remember when we would pay our yearly fee, there was an extra amount for the Board of Deputies levy and I remember asking some of the members of our shul what that was.”
One of the members explained about the Board of Deputies and Bruce was intrigued. Several years later, there was a vacancy for a Deputy. “The idea interested me and I asked what does this involve? I was told, well, you basically represent the synagogue and you go to meetings more or less once a month in London and I thought, that sounded interesting. It’ll be a nice way of meeting other Jews throughout the UK and getting a little more involved with the synagogue. So that’s how and why I became a Deputy in June of 2010.
“I thought, I’ll never get anywhere near Houses of Parliament, but this is somewhat maybe on a little smaller scale of what goes on there. I was impressed with the robust discussions. I thought it got a little over the top at times; but, all in all, it was a very good way of discussing things all things Jewish.”
Northampton is a small community but the members still manage to put on a number of events throughout the year. “We have done Friday night Shabbatons, a Purim afternoon tea, a Chanukah party and a couple of weeks ago had our AGM. We only have around 60 members now but we try to keep things going.”
Bruce has a wide and varied life outside the synagogue. He is an enthusiastic member of the Northampton Interfaith Forum and then there is his volunteering. “Once a week I do a show on Kettering General Hospital Radio and also, I help our local football team, AFC Rushden & Diamonds, during the football season. We have an internet radio station where I do match commentary.”
He is also a big fan of Fulham FC, despite being an American living in Northamptonshire. He knows plenty about players from bygone years including 1966 World Cup star George Cohen. “I actually met him once and he signed a picture for me. I could tell you that he was my childhood hero but I’d be lying.”