If a person received semicha (rabbinical certification) from a yeshiva upon successful completion of the necessary curriculum, but is a lay person, for instance, a businessman ,rather than a practicing Rav in a community or Shul, must this person be addressed as Rabbi or is Mr. also proper in this instance?

  • Relevant: torahmusings.com/2012/05/who-can-be-called-rabbi
    – alicht
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 20:49
  • 6
    Probably best to just ask them what they prefer
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 20:50
  • 4
    I used to get offended on my father's behalf when people called him Mr. instead of Dr. but he explained to me that he didn't stop being a Mr. when he became a Dr. and when he was dealing with the plumber, why did his medical degree matter?
    – rosends
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 22:19
  • @rosends I agree with you a bit more than your father. People who work hard to earn a degree and / or title should be admired and respected and should be called by their title. Your father personally was humble and opted to forgo the formality, and, it seems, that the plumber was ignorant, anyway. In a similar fashion, I call strangers "Mr. or Mrs. ploni" unless I know that they let me be informal. I don't like getting email from strangers calling me "Dan", but, I also ignore they're ignorance and discourtesy. I have to pick my battles.
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


I know several people who are in this position. Most of them are called "Rabbi {last name}." If you know them very well and can be somewhat casual, you might use Rabbi {first name}.

A rabbi (this one was a congregational rabbi for many years. Now he is semi-retired) explained to me that the notation "rabbi" is used to anyone who has Semicha. It has nothing to do with their performance as a congregational or yeshiva rabbi. After all, they got Semicha from a rabbinical school or a Kollel that probably had accredation from a Va'ad Rabbanim or a Rabbinical college, etc. Why shouldn't they be called rabbi regardless of whether they ever teach or work in a congregation. Some serve as hospital or army chaplains. They are definitely called "rabbi".

  • Similar to my comment to rosends, I think most people (or at least you should) address someone who earned a PHD as "Doctor" even if he is not a professor or medical doctor. It's respectful and courteous. Sadly, in U.S. and Israel, from what I've seen, courtesy is not the norm - at least not this type of courtesy.
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 14:20

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