Rabbi literally means “teacher” in Hebrew. In the Jewish community, a rabbi is viewed not only as a spiritual leader but as a counselor, a role model and an educator. The rabbi leads spiritual services, such as Shabbat services and High Holy Day services on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. He or she will also officiate at life-cycle events such as Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs, baby naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals.
Though traditionally rabbis were always men, since 1972 women have been able to become rabbis in all but the Orthodox movement. Rabbis usually train for about five years at seminaries such as Hebrew Union College (Reform) or The Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative). Orthodox rabbis will usually train at Orthodox seminaries called yeshivot. When someone completes his or her training they are ordained as rabbis, which is called receiving s’michah. The term s’michah refers to the laying on of hands that occurs when the rabbinic mantle is passed on to the newly ordained rabbi.
Rabbis are usually addressed as “Rabbi [insert last name here]” but they can also be called simply “rabbi,” “rebbe” or “reb.” The Hebrew word for rabbi is “rav,” which is another term sometimes used to refer to a rabbi.
Though the rabbi is an important part of the Jewish community, not all synagogues have one. In those cases lay leaders are responsible for leading religious services.