It’s Tough Being a Gabbai! OU West Coast Seminar Will Provide Plenty of Help

22 Aug 2006


When life becomes overwhelming for the rabbi’s right hand man — the gabbai, who is in charge of coordinating the synagogue services — the Orthodox Union has a solution. Following a very successful Conference and Seminar for Gabbaim in New York in February, and to fulfill a similar purpose out west, the OU West Coast Region will hold an enriching One-Day Conference and Seminar for Gabbaim and the Entire Community at OU headquarters in Los Angeles.

A project of the Department of Community Services of the West Coast Region, the conference will be held on Sunday, September 10 from 9 a.m. to 1: 30 p.m. at OU headquarters, 9831 West Pico Boulevard. There will also be a minyan for Shacharit at 8 a.m. followed by breakfast.

The conference is designed to assist the gabbaim and to simplify their demanding roles. “As the rabbi’s right hand man, the gabbai faces many challenges – from resolving disputes and hurt feelings, to maintaining decorum, to knowing when to correct the Torah reader if he makes a mistake. Experience helps, but knowledge empowers – and knowledge is what the OU provided by arranging this conference,” asserted Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director of the West Coast Region.

Among other skills, the gabbai must be thoroughly knowledgeable about the proper proceedings of the Torah service and whom to call to the Torah for an aliyah and in what order. He must also possess a sensitive and diplomatic character.

“The West Coast Seminar is also open to anyone in the general community who would like to learn about the leining (reading the Torah) process, how priorities are given to aliyot, how and when to correct the ba’al keriah (the Torah reader), and other important aspects of the Torah service in the synagogue,” according to Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, Director of Community and Synagogue Services of OU West Coast Region.

“I can say with a great deal of confidence that the success of the New York event will be duplicated in Los Angeles,” said Rabbi Kalinsky. In addition to Los Angeles-area participants, others will be coming from Sacramento, Irvine, and Palm Springs; and from outside of California, from Seattle among other communities.

The New York conference drew 130 attendees, with many turned away due to lack of space. However, everyone had the opportunity to watch the webcast of the conference on

For Rabbi Howard Horowitz of the Young Israel of Boca Raton, who arose at 4 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight to New York from Florida for the February conference, “The day was an opportunity to hear other gabbaim discuss how they deal with similar situations; how to proceed when these situations come up; and when to bring problems to the rabbi, the board and others in the congregation so that they’re not only on my shoulders.”

Those who attend the Los Angeles conference will be similarly enlightened.

The Program is as follows:

Keynote: Who gets an Aliyah? Who gets an Amud (leading the service)? Understanding the Halachot of Chiyuvim (the laws of priority) with Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Yeshiva University; Halachic Consultant, Orthodox Union.

Workshop Topics:

• Dealing with a Pasul Sefer Torah (unfit for use) and Mistakes Made by the Ba’al Keriah (Torah reader) with Rabbi Gershon Bess, Congregation Kehillas Yaakov

• Pasul Letters: A Visual Presentation on Valid & Invalid Osiyos (Letters) in a Sefer Torah with Rabbi and Sofer Shimon Kraft, 613 the Mitzvah Store

• Organizational and Technological Resources for the Gabbai

There will also be a panel discussion on the role of the gabbai in the synagogue and in the community with Eli Genauer, Bikur Cholim-Machzikay Hadath, Seattle; Uri Hirsch, Young Israel of Century City; and Rabbi Marc Mandel, Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills.

In addition, Rabbi Shimon Kraft and Ron Sieger, expert sofrim, will provide tefillin and mezuzah inspections free of charge to members of the community. Available as either drop-off or while you wait, the service will be held on premises from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For further information and registration contact Rabbi Korobkin at 310-229-9000 ext. 205. Registration fee is $15 including lunch, but is free for gabbaim of OU-member synagogues.