The Role of the Rabbi

Posted on: Monday August 29, 2011

Checklist to help rabbis clarify their rabbinic priorities.

RABBI AS PASTOR 
The rabbi sees her major role as visiting the sick and comforting the bereaved. Many people come visit this rabbi for pastoral counseling. This rabbi is a counselor, healer and a caretaker. The rabbi is known for her ability to listen and to care. The rabbi may be a spiritual guide. The rabbi is a teacher of values. The rabbi pays close attention to those on a religious journey. This rabbi may take an extra degree in counseling.

RABBI AS TEACHER
This rabbi loves to teach. This rabbi is acting as an educator in every possible setting. This synagogue has a great adult education program. This rabbi sees his own study as an important element of the rabbinate. This rabbi’s sermons are model lessons. The rabbi is well known for being conversant with text.

RABBI AS ADMINISTRATOR
This rabbi organizes, administrates, and manages a productive and effec­tive organization. She supervises a staff that might include other rabbis, cantors, school principals and other professionals. She is a resolver of disputes.

RABBI AS SOCIAL ACTIVIST
This rabbi is an agent for change in society. The social action committee is very active and the rabbi takes a leadership role. In the 1960’s this rabbi marched in Selma and in the 1980’s demonstrated in front of the Soviet Embassy.

RABBI AS SOCIAL EXEMPLAR/ROLE MODEL
The rabbi lives her rabbinate every moment. She understands that where she shops and how she raises her children are carefully observed by her community. She walks her talk. The rabbi is a role model that communicates authenticity. She understands and uses her power as a “symbolic exemplar.”

RABBI AS VISIONARY LEADER
This rabbi is always one step ahead of his community. He sees beyond the moment. The rabbi can articulate a compelling vision for the future. The rabbi strives to lead the community to a new place and a new purpose. The rabbi is in the forefront of the change ethic.

RABBI AS COMMUNITY PERSONAGE
This rabbi is the community’s first citizen active in community and Jewish organizations. This rabbi represents the religious community to first responders, on the city’s interfaith council, perhaps on government boards. She thrives on politics. She teaches the community the values of her synagogue community.

RABBI AS WORSHIP LEADER
The rabbi is at home leading the congregation in religious services. The congregation feels comfortable as the rabbi conducts services. He loves ritual and ceremony. This rabbi is very knowledgeable about synagogue practice and practical halakha. This rabbi takes preaching very seriously.

RABBI AS SPIRITUAL GUIDE
This rabbi is very concerned about the inner spiritual journey of congregants. Individual religious experience is more important than the communal worship. The rabbi might have trained as a spiritual mentor.

RABBI AS FUND RAISER
This rabbi is comfortable discussing finances and sees her role as marshalling people to fund important synagogue activities. She is an effective solicitor. This rabbi sees that the relationship between sacred means and sacred ends is a responsibility of the rabbi.

RABBI AS EMPLOYEE
Every rabbi works for an institution. He needs to know and understand governance and how a board works. He needs to be comfortable with the lay-professional dynamic. Above all, the rabbi needs to accept direction from others, accept supervision and acknowledge evaluation. The rabbi meets regularly with the lay leadership to discuss expectations.

RABBI AS WORKING SCHOLAR
The presence and the respect a rabbi generates through her work are grounded in the knowledge that the rabbi is conversant with classic Jewish texts and uses them in her teachings, conversations, and writings, etc. The rabbi must maintain scholarship through personal continuing Jewish studies.

RABBI AS COMMUNITY BUILDER
Rabbi is a symbolic leader that emphasizes selected attention and signals to others what is of importance and of value. This rabbi creates a space where people can gather safely to share common purposes and common symbols to foster a group identity. Individuals are encouraged to share their personal narratives in respect and supportive environments often through text study. As a result, these participants feel understood by and connected with other members of the community.

RABBI AS MARA D’ATRA
Rabbi is the ultimate religious authority. She makes binding religious decisions for the congregants. The rabbi’s role is to be the halakhic decisor for individuals and for the community as a whole.

Based on the work of Margaret Fletch Clark; Ten Models of Ordained Ministry. As quoted in Pastoral Stress, by Anthony G. Pappas; Rabbi Matthew Simon wrote an initial draft; created by Rabbi Elliot Salo Schoenberg for work with congregations. Revised September 2007.