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What is the role and function of the synagogue rabbi?

What is the role and function of the synagogue rabbi?


What is the function of a rabbi? What is his purpose and mission? What is he there to accomplish? I would imagine that if you would ask three different rabbis you would probably get three unique responses. Perhaps that might be because they each are serving three unique communities; three distinct groups of people, with different needs and desires.

You asked; so I will give you my take on the issue. A rabbi is there to service his community and provide them in all areas of life. This obviously begins with catering to their religious needs: weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and the like. Some people might need some guidance in their religious observances. Then there is the social aspect. Some people might need counseling for their marriage while others might need a supportive shoulder, while yet others might need help in being able to find a business contact.

A rabbi is all that, and more. All this is merely reactive, how a rabbi reacts to his community and duly serves as such. But there is the proactive side of a rabbi; one that needs to encourage growth; one that has to foster unity amongst his respective community and has to promote Jewish identity and pride amongst his congregants. Mostly, he needs to stand up and gaze into the crowd, better yet, go into the crowd, and see what he can do to better this community and its people in all aspects, religious and social alike.

Needless to say, all of the above is done in a manner that is imbued and embodied with the spirit of the Torah; as the Torah is our guide to living a morally, ethically and religiously productive life. The Rabbi is our tour guide.

What do you think is the role of a rabbi?

May I suggest that you visit a local Chabad Center to see for yourself what a rabbi is all about.

All the best,

Rabbi Shmuel Kogan,

Rabbi Shmuel Kogan of Brooklyn, NY, is a responder for's Ask the Rabbi feature.
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Rick Abrams Beverly Hills August 21, 2017

When I was young (1950's), we saw the rabbis in our town provide one of the most valuable functions a rabbi could provide. When a Black family (who were Negroes back then) bought a nice home on a very nice street, people got up a petition against the Black family. The three leading Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis visited all the Jewish families on the street in this heavily Jewish neighborhood and had every Jewish family remove its name for the Petition and instead to support the Black family. The anti-Black petition failed and the Black family moved into their new home. Reply

Anonymous New York February 13, 2017

Why not? why not exactly? Reply

Charlie Anderson Berkeley March 27, 2016

When is it time for a Rabbi to retire? Or is there such a thing?... Interestingly enough, I had been asking your title question for the many years but had yet to receive a solid response of an answer ...and just like summed it up in a few paragraphs. Amazing! Makes perfect sense to me. But that's just me. Thank you Rabbi, I must ask if you don't mind....would you say that most reform or orthodox Rabbi's would agree with your article? What about the congregants, do you believe that most feel that they are indeed receiving a "tour guide" of a Rabbi at their synagogues? Inquiring minds would love to know... Reply

Peter Grathios Australia September 29, 2013

Function of Rabbi Thank you. Excellent article. Very informative. Brief and to the point. Reply

A synagogue is a place of Jewish worship. In addition to housing a sanctuary for services, synagogues (most notably Chabad centers) serve as the centerpoint of Jewish life.
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