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ARCHISYNAGOGOS (ἁρχισυνάγωγος; Heb. rosh ha-keneset), title used in classical times referring to the head of the synagogue, who served as the leader of the Jewish community. The archisynagogos is known from Jewish inscriptions in the period of the Roman Empire and from other sources (Yoma 7:1; Mark 5:22 et al.). His functions were varied and included the arrangement of the service in the synagogue and of everything related to its physical administration as well as supervision of general community affairs. The archisynagogos was held in high esteem and it was considered a great honor to marry one of his daughters (Pes. 49b; cf. Git. 60a). For a time it was customary at the consolation meals of mourners to drink a cup of wine in honor of the archisynagogos, but this was later abolished (tj, Ber. 3:1, 6a; cf. Sem. 14, end). Archisynagogoi are known in many places: Ereẓ Israel, Syria, Asia Minor, and Rome (see Juster, Juifs, 1 (1914), 450). Outside Ereẓ Israel the archisynagogos collected charity funds and donations for Jews in the Holy Land. The manner in which the archisynagogos was chosen is not known. The title archisynagogos appears also as an honorific, being applied even to women and children. A Roman law of 331 c.e. exempted the archisynagogos from physical servitude (to the state, munus corporale; Codex Theodosianus 16:8:4), and another law, of 397, exempted them from several state taxes and granted them a legal position equivalent to that of Christian clergymen (Codex Theodosianus 16:8:13). During this period the archisynagogos was subject to the *nasi, who could remove him from office and appoint another in his place (Epiphanius, Panarion, haer. 30:11). According to Finkelstein, however, the rosh ha-keneset mentioned in the Mishnah (Sot. 7:7; Yoma 7:1) refers only to the head of a Pharisaic congregation and not to the archisynagogos mentioned above.


S. Krauss, Synagogale Altertuemer (1922), 114–21; G.F. Moore, Judaism, 1 (1946), 289; 3 (1948), 94 (includes bibliography); L. Finkelstein, Ha-Perushim ve-Anshei Keneset ha-Gedolah (1950), 31 ff.; B. Lifshitz, Donateurs et fondateurs dans les synagogues juives (1967), index.

[Uriel Rappaport]