THE PLACE OF THE RABBI IN JUDAISM
Some Jews choose to become rabbis. Until modern times, there were no women
rabbis. Recently, however, women have entered the rabbinate in three of
the four modern Jewish movements. Unlike Christian priests, a rabbi is not
necessarily a person who has heard a "call" from God. A rabbi is simply a
has studied deeply the books of Judaism and who has gained enough
knowledge and sensitivity to serve the Jewish people as a leader and to answer the many questions that average Jews must ask in order
to live a full Jewish life.
As a part of their task, modern rabbis perform marriages, name babies,
conduct religious services, accept converts into Judaism, preach sermons, lead discussions, and counsel
those in need of advice. In addition, rabbis often lead their communities
in a variety of Jewish affairs, including raising funds
for the American Jewish community, for Jewish concerns around the world,
and for charities in Israel. Rabbis can direct or teach in religious and
day schools; direct or serve in Jewish agencies and charities such as old age homes
and hospices; counsel those in need,
direct or work in Jewish community centers, and in welfare associations.
Rabbis can also serve as
chaplains in the armed forces of the United States. Rabbis officiate
at funerals and burial ceremonies and help to comfort the bereaved.
Other Jewish professionals are equipped to do many of these same
things, but since ancient times, rabbis have developed the leadership
skills and abilities on which the Jewish people most relies.
OTHER JEWISH PROFESSIONS
In addition to rabbis, other professionals serve Jewish communities.
Rabbis are often aided by Cantors or soloists, who bring traditional and
modern Jewish music to the congregation and may also help to prepare students
by teaching them the necessary melodies for reading the Torah and chanting
Jewish prayers. In addition, Cantors who have been trained and ordained by
accredited cantorial schools can perform most of the functions of rabbis.
Jewish day schools may have a Headmaster or Principal; and Jewish
afternoon schools, religious schools, and preschools may have a Principal
or Director of Education. These specially trained individuals bring a combination of Jewish
learning and administrative skills to their work, as do those who
serve as administrators for synagogues or directors of Jewish community centers.
Most Jewish communities also have a "Federation" that collects donations to
the community and sees to their proper distribution. Many Jewish
professionals serve these federations, most of them bringing combinations
of skills in social work, Jewish learning, and Jewish administration.
Professional Jews may also serve as teachers in Jewish programs in
universities, or as directors of Hillel foundations on college campuses, organizing
Jewish college students for prayer, study, mutual support, and
Among professional Jews, one specialist is the mashgiach, a
"Supervisor," whose task it is to insure that food is kosher --
butchered, processed, and prepared in accordance with Jewish laws so that
it is fit to be eaten by Jews who observe the Jewish dietary laws.
At times, a rabbi or cantor may also serve as a mashgiach. Another
specialist involved with kosher food preparation is the shochet,
"butcher," who is trained to slaughter animals in ways considered kind by
A unique Jewish professional is the mohel who circumcises a
male child on the eighth day after his birth. In theory, a mohel
may be male or female. In practice, the Orthodox utilize only men to
perform circumcisions. Because circumcision involves cutting the skin,
many a doctor or surgeon elects to train as a mohel, but there is
no necessity for a mohel to be a physician or surgeon.
Jewish artists often specialize in creating ritual art for the Jewish
community, combining their talents with their knowledge. Jewish poets,
writers, and publishers devote their work to educating Jews
through a continual outpouring of new works that illumine and enlighten
One very special kind of Jewish artist is the Scribe, a highly-trained
calligrapher who produces new scrolls of the Torah, repairs older scrolls
of the Torah, designs and copies new versions of the Scroll of Esther, and
creates hand lettered inserts for the mezzuzah and the tefillin
The variety of available Jewish professions is amazing, all of them
calling on combinations which always include Jewish learning.