The Rabbinic Role

Article by Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, Emeritus Rabbi, Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue

The congregational rabbi is often assumed to fill a range of roles: pastor, preacher, service leader, cantor, life-cycle celebrant, educator of children and adults, youth club director, marriage guidance councillor, interfaith representative, and sometimes administrator and even caretaker.

Such a comprehensive job description can only lead to disappointment if the rabbi is expected to be in charge and involved in all areas. Communities have different needs and different staffing. Some will have other rabbis, a professional head teacher of the religion school, administrator, cantor or director of music, care co-ordinator, and so on.

Rabbis will have different talents – some have good singing voices some not, some will be good with adults and not young children. A successful congregation/rabbinic partnership will consider these talents and come to an agreement about which activities the rabbi should emphasise.

The “traditional” Liberal rabbi will focus on the services, life-time celebrations, education and pastoral support. The other requirements may seen as a bonus and hopefully the rabbi will be able to fulfil some of these extra tasks