Local elders governed the synagogue as a kind of democracy. While all adult members of the community could belong to the synagogue, only adult males age 13 or older could be elders.

A local caretaker called the hazzan (sometimes called “ruler” in the English Bible) was responsible for maintaining the building and organizing prayer services (Mark 5:22, 35-36, 38; Luke 8:41-49; 13:14). The hazzan sometimes taught the synagogue school, especially in smaller villages. He would announce the coming Sabbath with blasts on the shofar (ram’s horn), and he also cared for the Torah scrolls and other sacred writings, bringing them out at the appropriate times (Luke 4:17-20).

Priests and Levites were welcome to participate in synagogue life, including worship, but they had no special leadership role. However, only priests could offer the blessing of Aaron from the Torah (Num. 6:24-27) at the end of a synagogue service.


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