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?

  • 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, 2010 at 18:11

1 Answer 1


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.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .