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In every Ashkenazic synagogue I've seen, the fellow calling up people to the Bima is called a "gabbai." (Which was originally a Hebrew word for "collector", as in Tzedaka collector; I can see how the phrase transitioned.)

What about the synagogue president? I think I've heard "nasi beit hakneset", though in a German-influenced synagogue they had a Mi Shebeirach for the president, referring to him as "parnes" [rhymes with "bar-mace"]-- which can mean "leader" or "economic provider."

I've heard of one Sephardic community (I don't know of which origins) where what we call the Gabbai was called the Parnes, but then saw an Iranian-American synagogue where he was called Gabbai. Can anyone clarify this for me, or add to this?

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Historically, like that of the Gabai, I believe the "Chazan" had a more significant roll in the shul than being a cantor. The Meturgeman used to interpret the Torah into Aramaic during its reading. –  YDK Oct 20 '10 at 18:11

2 Answers 2

I've heard shamash, who does light menial labor about the synagogue; shlep shamash, an informal/jocular term for the person who volunteers to carry chumashim back to the shelf after k'rias hatora and sidurim after prayers; gabay, not only the person who calls people to the Torah but also any similar functionary, such as one who appoints baale t'fila and one who records promises of future donations; n'si bes hak'neses, nasi, and rosh hakahal, all president; rav, rabbi; and gabay rishon, who calls people to the Torah, to distinguish him from gabay sheni and gabay sh'lishi, who may have other jobs, but also fill in for the gabay rishon, in that order, in his absence, to call people to the Torah. These were all in various Ashk'nazi synagogues.

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I actually have additional questions:

These are also in Ashkenazic (Slovakian or what was once Austro-Hungarian) towns:

On tombstones or records, I have seen people listed as Rosh Hakehila (ראש הקהילה), others as Hanagid (הנגיד), another who amad al mishmeret hakodesh (עמד על משמרת הקודש). I would appreciate it if someone could tell me what these functions or honors were. Rosh hakehila probably is like our President of the shul today, but how about the others?

Thanks

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Please post this as a new question, rather than as an answer to this existing question. –  Isaac Moses Feb 4 '11 at 9:40
    
mi.yodeya.com/questions/5762/… Thanks! –  Isaac Moses Feb 6 '11 at 1:41

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