The Synagogue

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The role of the rabbi has also expanded in modern times. Perhaps under the influence of the religions of the wider Western society, the rabbi is also seen as a clergyperson--not only a teacher, but a pastor, a preacher, a minister and an administrator supervising the myriad activities of the synagogue and meeting the immediate and long-term needs of congregants. In some communities, the rabbi is also expected to represent Jews and Judaism to the non-Jewish community.

Historically, only men became rabbis and cantors, but in the last several decades, women have entered these roles in all streams of Judaism, with the exception of Orthodox Jewish communities in which there are currently very few female rabbis or cantors serving.

In modern times, rabbis achieve the role and title by studying Judaism and Jewish texts for a prescribed period of time, usually after earning an undergraduate degree, and then completing requirements for ordination. These requirements vary among the streams of Judaism, but all the streams have institutions of higher Jewish learning, often called seminaries. Cantors, as a rule, are not ordained, but are invested or authorized by the same seminaries that ordain rabbis, with roughly the same length of training after an undergraduate education. Governments often recognize both rabbis and cantors as clergy for the purpose of marriage.

As the role of the synagogue has expanded, especially in North America, the education of children and adults has become a more pronounced function. A new position, Director of Education, has emerged, with responsibility for formal and informal Jewish educational programs for children and youth. Similarly, the development of large congregations has often required that Executive Directors professionally manage their business affairs. Separate training and certification programs have developed for these professions. (They are not considered "clergy" unless the person fulfilling the function also happens to be a rabbi or cantor.)

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