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Philip Birnbaum (1904  – 1988; also Paltiel Birnbaum) was an author and translator, best known for his translation and annotation of the siddur (Jewish Prayer Book), first published in 1949.[1]


Birnbaum was born in Kielce, Poland and emigrated to the United States in 1923. He received his Ph.d. from Dropsie College.[1][2]

His works include translations (with annotation and introductory material) of the Siddur, the Machzor, the Torah with Haftorot, and the Passover Haggadah. These translations sought to express reverence without appearing archaic. His Siddur and Machzor were pioneering in that the Hebrew text is of uniform typeface, "unlike the helter-skelter boldface paragraphing... found in Old World siddurim".[3] His siddur also contains the rarely published Megillat Antiochus.

Until the recent advent of the Artscroll translations, "the Birnbaum translations" were widely used in Orthodox (and Conservative) synagogues, selling over 300,000 copies.[2] The value of his work for the popularization of synagogue services for American Jews cannot be overestimated.

Birnbaum is also well known for his works of popular Judaism: his excerpted translation of Maimonides Mishne Torah, was one of the first into English; his "Encyclopedia of Jewish Concepts" was widely referenced.[4] He also produced a "readable" translation of the Tanach.

On his death, the Hebrew Publishing Company described him as "the most obscure best-selling author".[4] It is noteworthy that an immigrant at age 19 should achieve such status as a translator into English.


  • Daily Prayer Book: Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem. Hebrew Publishing Company, 1977. ISBN 0884820548
  • High Holy Day Prayer Book. Hebrew Publishing Company, 1979. ISBN 0884822400
  • Prayer Book for Sabbath and Festivals. Hebrew Publishing Company, 1977. ISBN 0884820548
  • The Birnbaum Haggadah. Hebrew Publishing Company, 1976. ISBN 0884829081
  • The Concise Jewish Bible. Hebrew Publishing Company, 1977. ISBN 0884824519
  • Torah and the Haftarot. Hebrew Publishing Company, 1983. ISBN 0884844560
  • Maimonides Mishneh Torah (Yad Hazakah). Hebrew Publishing Company, 1970. ISBN 0884824365
  • Encyclopedia of Jewish Concepts. Hebrew Publishing Company, 1979. ISBN 0884829308




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