do I have to call my coworker “Rabbi”?

A reader writes:

I work in an office that is fairly formal, where everyone addresses each other as Mr. or Ms. We are a private company, not a nonprofit or religious institution.

One employee is an ordained rabbi and asks that people call him “Rabbi Weiss” [real name changed] instead of “Mr. Weiss.” I don’t have any deeply held religious beliefs that would prevent me from calling him “Rabbi,” but it just doesn’t seem proper to ask employees to call people “Rabbi” in a secular business office, and would be much more appropriate if we called him “Mr. Weiss” in the office and left it up to people in his religious community to call him Rabbi. Am I wrong? Would it be improper to remove his honorific title in the workplace? Being an ordained rabbi is in no way relevant to the job he does at the company.

I can argue this either way. On one hand, if your office uses titles and this guy’s title is Rabbi, it’s not crazy that he prefers to use it. Your office uses titles, and this is his. (But if your office didn’t use titles for everyone else, then his request would be out of sync with the culture.)

But on the other hand, if someone in your office was, say, a military reservist and wanted to be called by their military rank at the office, I think we’d all agree that that would be ridiculous. (Except in the Old South, as my sister helpfully pointed out when I discussed this letter with her.) And there’s an argument to be made that Rabbi, like Captain or Lieutenant, shouldn’t be used in civilian jobs.

I think either of those arguments is reasonable. Ultimately, though, I come down on the side of calling people what they want to be called, unless it’s wildly out of sync with the culture.

{ 481 comments… read them below }

  1. the gold digger

    To reinforce the point – My dad was career military and we lived on military bases when I was a kid. My dad told me I was not to address my friends’ dads “Major Smith” or “Chief Jones” but “Mr Smith” and “Mr Jones.”

    1. TL -

      Interesting! Most of the military brats I know (mind you, we’re all Southerners-ish) refer to adults as “Mr. First Name” and “Ms. First Name.”

        1. A Teacher

          I grew up in a very informal community, everyone’s parents went by their first names even my grandparents and great grandma were called by their first names by my friends. It was weirder to call them by last names.

          1. Andrew

            I work on a military base and a lot of people use the Mr. FirstName formula. I find it weird. I usually call people by their first name, since this isn’t high school. No one has said anything about it. I do kind of make an exception for some of my bosses, but then I tend to go with Mr. LastName. If we’re on a first name basis, I don’t see the point behind adding a Mr. in front of it.

            1. John B Public

              I’m a military brat and I still call my parents’ friends “Mr Bill” and”Mrs Anne”. This is how I met them, and at the time I was in elementary school or younger. To be clear this changed once I hit my 30s, but it still feels weird to call Mr Bill “Bill”, and sometimes I slip back.

  2. Sascha

    I see this as similar to working at a university. There are professors here who want to be called Professor Smith or Assistant Prof. Smith, but some prefer Dr. Smith, or Ms. Smith, or just Jane. I think I’d just go with whatever he wants to be called, as long as it’s an actual title. I can’t expect anyone to call me Dr. Sascha, as much as I want them to. :)

    1. fposte

      Yeah, if he wanted to be Rabbi Whosis when everybody else was just Jane or Bob, that would rankle, but since it’s an honorific place anyway I’d call him Rabbi. I’m thinking also that when medical doctors aren’t working in medicine, they still get called “Dr.”

    2. Big10Professor (was AdjunctForNow)

      I disagree. Outside of the university, I would never expect anyone to call me Doctor. The proper honorific is Ms. in a non-academic setting.

      1. louise

        OT for a second: does you name change mean you’re no longer an adjunct? If that’s the case, congratulations!

        1. Jillociraptor

          Yes, your username gave me a thrill of delight! As the significant other of someone on the academic job market right now, I know this is a B-F-D. Congratulations!

          1. Cucumber

            Congrats!! Happy to see someone make that transition and at a Big Ten school to boot. Hope it’s UM. :)

      2. fposte

        But that’s hugely variable, as we’ve discussed here–for instance, I’m from the background where it’s the appropriate honorific within the academic setting, too.

          1. BOMA

            When I was in college, students in my department typically called professors by their first name, with no honorific. If a student called a professor by anything else, it stood out as odd. There’s definitely a lot of variety, at least in American academic settings.

            1. Kay

              For me this always varied with the classes I was taking and where. For example: During my bachelor’s most of the professors were Dr. X, that was just what we called them. Students on their own would drop the Dr. in casual conversation with each other (i.e. “Have you had Smithson’s class? The papers are really intense!”) But I did have one professor (adjunct) who was not a Dr., not an actual professor since he was adjunct, and didn’t like being called Mr. He insisted we call him by his first name which felt very out of place with the rest of the environment I was in.

              On the other hand, when I went back to school to get other things (teaching credentials, paralegal certificate, continuing education stuff) most teachers at the community college level were just Mr. or Ms. and some went by first names. It was much more casual.

              All that to say: OP, if your environment is into honorifics, and he wants to be “Rabbi”, then let him be. It’s a touch quirky, but so is an environment that’s into honorifics to a lot of people. I would just shrug it off.

            2. Cassie

              At my university, I think it varies depending on the dept. In the STEM fields, you tend to go with Prof. or Dr. for the older/senior faculty (sometimes students just call them Professor, without adding the person’s last name). In the arts field that I majored in, we just called the instructors/faculty by their first names, even though many of them had doctorates and/or were full tenured professors.

          2. fposte

            Absolutely. At some institutions, using “Dr.” indicates you’re worried people think you don’t have a PhD and are desperately, vulgarly keen to make it clear you do, when being at this institution is supposed to be all you need for people to know that you have a PhD. My current department doesn’t work quite this way, but a lot of us came from that tradition and still follow it.

            1. Big10Professor (was AdjunctForNow)

              Hahaha, well, yes, there are people in every university that over-emphasize the doctor. I guess that I expect doctor or professor for undergraduate students, first name from everyone else, so I’d consider “Ms.” out of place. Anecdotally, I think a student do this more to female or minority professors than they do to white men, and that’s why it can be read as a sign of disrespect.

              1. fposte

                Whereas I feel more respected by Ms. than Dr., because of that tradition.

                If there’s one thing this comment section today proves, it’s that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to honorifics.

          3. Librarian Anonymous

            In my old college – no one went by Professor or Doctor even if they had one. that was the culture

            1. Helka

              Same here. I went to the University of Virginia, and it’s an emphasized, specific tradition that none of the faculty are to be addressed as Doctor. Apparently some of the faculty were really thrown by this when they came onboard, though.

              1. fposte

                Yeah, it was utterly verboten at the University of Chicago, too. I’d be interested to know what the demographics on this are now, since so many younger PhDs dislike this tradition. It’s pretty strong at a lot of venerable Midwestern/Eastern schools, though, and its strength tends to correlate with the institution’s prestige.

                1. Judy

                  It was explained to me at Purdue, that Professor was the appropriate title, because there were lots of PhDs in the labs that weren’t professors, but purely researchers. The undergrads certainly called all of the professors “Professor Jones”, never “Doctor Jones” or “Mr Jones”.

      3. ME

        Really?! I stufy/work at an ivy and G-d help the person that calls any of my professors Mr. Smith.

        It’s always the icy glare and “it’s DOCTOR Smith.” You could be the Starbucks barista.

  3. illini02

    While I do think calling someone Mr. or Mrs. when everyone else is on a first name basis is odd, I don’t think this is. If someone was a Doctor and they asked to be referred to as such, I don’t think there would be an issue. I’ve had to call people when I was in a job, and if they were a priest and I knew that, I referred to them as Father Smith, even though I’m not catholic. I do think that religious titles can carry a bit more weight, but thats just my take.

    1. bridget

      For what it’s worth, I kind of do an internal eyeroll whenever anyone with any title insists on people using it out of context. I know “Doctor” is pretty common for medical doctors even outside of their place of practice, but I think it’s kind of silly. I would prefer to live in a world where we call everybody Mr./Ms. unless you are in their classroom/medical office/church/military base.

      But, you’re obviously referring to prevailing societal norms, not my idiosyncratic preferences :)

      1. April

        This is interesting. I guess I can see it both ways. Sure, in one point of view it might seem pretentious for a medical doctor to want to be known as “Doctor” even when he’s just cheering at his son’s baseball game or buying groceries or doing other “off duty” activities.

        In another point of view, he is a doctor all of the time whether he’s actually utilizing those skills at the moment or not. Many times doctors will step up in emergency situations even when technically “off duty”; there exist in many places “good samaritan” laws that give them some protection from lawsuit when doing exactly that. In this point of view it’s not inappropriate to acknowledge with an honorific the combination of a) long years of study and b) commitment to healing profession often requiring a degree of personal sacrifice not required in other professions.

        I think the latter point of view lies behind the widespread willingness to refer to certain people by honorifics, there’s a sense of one or both of the following, that they earned the title by some measure of effort beyond the ordinary (military training, advanced study, etc) or that they have a role from which they’re never truly “off duty.” I don’t know how it is with rabbis specifically, but I know a lot of religious leaders for which the latter would be true (and often the former, there’s generally quite a bit of advanced study they go through). They would feel that their role is more of a “who they are” than a “what they do”, that they are there to serve anyone who needs them at any time, not just some predefined membership at set hours in a set space.

  4. Joey

    No way. When you’re at work Mr. Or Ms. should be all that’s needed unless your profession at that job recognizes titles. I’m not obligated to recognize titles that have nothing to do with this job.

        1. Ani

          Because it’s weirdly adamant (for an office that uses titles in the first place) to the point of being offensive based on religion. And I’m not religious. Personal opinion.

            1. John B Public

              You always address the president as “Mr President.” Same with many other political titles.

    1. Joey

      I think a religious title is even more inappropriate at work since it can lead people to think religion will influence business decisions. For example if I want I go to an accounting firm I want to deal with an accountant, not necessarily a religious accountant.

      1. Observer

        By that logic, people should also be forbidden to put any signs of their religious affiliation in their workspace – or even to wear religious garb. As it happens, the Supreme Court disagrees with you on the latter.

        1. Joey

          Not even close. The law allows for reasonable accommodations. That doesn’t include demanding that everyone refer to you using your religious honorific wherever you go.

          1. Observer

            No, the law does not allow the banning of religious clothing unless the employer can prove a need – and avoiding the perception of religious bias doesn’t come close. In fact, the reverse is true – the idea that showing religious affiliation automatically means religiously based discrimination is, itself, considered religious discrimination.

            I’m not pulling this out of a hat – you are the one who is claiming that the use of religiously based honorifics is inappropriate because it creates an impression of impermissible religious bias. Religious garb is no different, but the court saw right through that.

              1. Observer

                But it’s the exact same thing. Why does “reverend” imply improper religious bias, whereas a clerical collar wouldn’t?

                1. Joey

                  A dress code exception doesn’t put a burden on anyone except your employer. Requesting that everyone refer to you by your religious honorific does.

                2. Turanga Leela

                  For the record, I would find it super-weird if I worked with an accountant who wore a clerical collar.

                3. Zillah

                  I would argue that it’s not the same thing at all. Religious clothing is often an expression of your religion – head scarves, for example, or yarmulkes. Being called an honorific is not to my knowledge generally similarly important in your practice of your religion.

                4. Molly

                  The difference to me is that it’s one of the rules of his religion that he wear the collar, but being called Reverend isn’t (I don’t think… that would be impossible to enforce!)

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.

              I think a difference here is that there are religions that require you to adhere to a certain dress code as part of your practice. I don’t know of any religions that require that you go by a religious title all the time as part of your practice. It’s a preference, as opposed to a requirement of your religious practice.

        2. Squirrel!

          people should also be forbidden to put any signs of their religious affiliation in their workspace

          Why shouldn’t they be? Unless you work in a religious area (like a Catholic hospital, or a Christian nursery, or something along those lines), why would you need to display your religion at work?

          1. Observer

            I don’t, but some people like to do so, much like others like to have travel mementos, or other items that are meaningful to them. Sure, a company could ban all of those things, but they might get into trouble if they banned ONLY religious items. (I do believe the some companies do ban all personal items, and others ban anything that might need care, like plants. It wouldn’t thrill me, but I could easily understand that.)

            The thing is that when you single out religion this way, it implies strong religious bias.

            1. Squirrel!

              Or maybe they don’t want to have to deal with religious bickering or fighting in the workplace? Or maybe they want people to concentrate on their job instead of prosthelytizing? I don’t think being “anti-having religious stuff in the office” equals “biased against religion”. That’s completely unfair to say.

              1. Nerd Girl

                It’s also unfair to assume that there would be religious fighting or bickering in the workplace over the display of a religious item. It’s also unfair to assume that a co-worker is trying to proselytize others based solely on its being in the workplace. I have a framed photo of St Patrick’s Cross on my desk. I wear a cross around my neck. My faith is important to me. It does not mean that I discuss it with my co-workers. It does not mean that I invite them to mass with me on Sunday.

                1. Helka

                  Ditto. When I worked in a call center, I had the words of a hymn written up and visible at my desk — it wasn’t for anyone else, it was for me, because I found having it there comforting and helpful in dealing with unhappy, stressful callers.

                  (Although to be fair, it was a pretty nonreligious hymn — I’m not sure anyone who wasn’t familiar with it would have even recognized it as such!)

                2. Squirrel!

                  I did not assume that at all. I was offering up possible reasons for not allowing religious items in the workspace other than “the company hates religion” or some other such nonsense.

              2. ME

                It’s not that unfair when you just said it would cause fights. I have pictures of my nephew up and so does my cube mate, but we’ve managed not to get in and scuffles over who’s kid is cuter.

                The assumption that religious people can’t get along is actually fairly insulting. I wear my Star of David daily and get along famously with my coworkers in hijab. We’ve actually bonded a lot over the similarities and struggles we didn’t know we shared (no bacon, mostly).

              3. Observer

                It’s actually completely logical to ay. That statement implies that religious items have a unique ability to spark bickering. And, that’s simply not true. Sports and politics are two example of things that are so commonly the cause of bickering, that many people consider it bad form to bring either up in a social setting where you don’t know where everyone stands.

      2. sunny-dee

        You … don’t want to deal with a religious accountant? That’s not the same as not dealing with religion at an accountant’s office (which is legit). That is just as bigoted as saying you don’t want to deal with a particular race or saying you wouldn’t want to deal with a visibly-pregnant receptionist (which happened to my mother, when she was pregnant with me).

        1. De Minimis

          It sounded to me more like he just didn’t want the religious aspect thrown in with the professional aspect. I think I’d find it more than a little odd to visit Rev. Wakeen Teapot, CPA. If I’m seeking spiritual counsel, why would I care if he were a CPA, and vice versa….the two things just aren’t related. I agree if this were a secular office it would seem like religion were being pushed in the workplace. I think it would be confusing at the very least.

          A family remember did used to have a religious accountant….he had a big cross on his company logo.

          1. sunny-dee

            It was the phrasing that got me. Saying you don’t want to deal with a “religious accountant” is different than saying you don’t want to deal with religion at your accountant’s (which, as I said, seems more reasonable).

            1. Molly

              I think is intention was more Religious Accountant than an accountant who is also religious, if that makes any sense.

          2. Anx

            As a customer, I have no reservations about patronizing a religious person’s business. But at a certain point, religious expression can become part of a brand or business, and I’m likely to avoid it. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a Christian accounting firm. I would feel awkward about the fact that I cohabitate and otherwise assume I’m not the type of clientele they are looking for.

        2. Gwen

          I think there’s a difference between an accountant who is religious and a Religious Accountant, which is what it would feel like if someone introduced themselves to me by a religious title when I was working with them in a non-religious context.

          1. Mike C.

            Yeah. It’s like the difference between a plumber who happens to be a practicing Christian (for example) and someone who makes a big deal of and markets themselves as being a “Christian plumber”.

        3. Joey

          Maybe that came out wrong. I really don’t care what religion you are unless I’m going to a religiously affiliated organization. Its confusing. I’m going to be wondering how much your particular religious beliefs are influencing business decisions that affect me.

          1. De Minimis

            I think as an employee I might be concerned too if this were a manager and I was of a different faith or wasn’t religious.

            1. sunny-dee

              I am in the reverse position — I am religious, while I work for a company that is stridently anti-religious. (And I do mean strident — every 3 months or so, there are group mailing lists that will have 300+ posts slamming Christianity / Christians.)

              I would assume you work in an environment where your manager or your coworkers don’t agree with you 100% on a lot of issues — politics, religion, schooling options, lifestyle choices, YouTube cat videos, whatever. You deal with a difference in religion the same as anything else — don’t be rude, let a lot of the differences roll off, and don’t compromise your own beliefs (even if you’re not outspoken). Most people want to live and let live.

              1. Natalie

                “And I do mean strident — every 3 months or so, there are group mailing lists that will have 300+ posts slamming Christianity / Christians.”

                That is just bizarre, for so many reasons.

            2. Observer

              And if your manager identified as a being of a different political persuasion than you, would you assume that would also lead to discrimination?

              1. Karowen

                Personally, yes. If he was so strident in his political beliefs as to want me to call him “Rent is Too Damn High Representative Jones” (assuming I didn’t work in government) I’d be super uncomfortable working for him.

                1. Kimberlee, Esq.

                  Yeah, I mean, this question is going beyond personal identification. It’s talking about a manager who uses an identifying moniker at the workplace and asks others to use it as well, every day. There’s not really a good parallel for it that I can think of for political beliefs…

                  Oh wait! There totally is. There is one dude in Idaho (ran for various offices) who had his name legally changed to Pro-Life. It’s not the political belief, it’s the insistence in inserting it into your day-to-day work life, which implies that it is hugely important to you, which means it’s reasonable to think it might impact the decisions they are making that have nothing to do with religion or politics but DO affect you.

                2. Observer

                  For crying out loud! The the honorific “Rabbi” does nothing more than identify the fact that a person happens to be a committed Jew (Because becoming a Rabbi ususally means a course of study.) It’s not a statement of faith in any way shape or form. It’s not even as strong as wearing a t-shirt with a team or party logo. Would you refuse to work with / for someone who wore a t-shirt with the logo of an opposing sports team or party logo?

      3. Mitchell

        By asking to use the title Rabbi, you are announcing that you are Jewish. Now I wonder, why do you want me (a coworker) to know that? Why would you bring it up if it’s not relevant? I don’t think a person’s religion is relevant in the workplace, but if a coworker announces their religion I assume that they think it is relevant. Now I’m wondering why my coworker thinks religion is relevant in the workplace. I would worry that this person’s religion affects their business decisions more generally.

        1. sunny-dee

          No. It could mean that they are proud of the academic achievement. It could be because they have a standing in the community and this emphasizes that (like a football coach being called “coach” at their day job). Or it could simply be what they’re called 90% of the time, and that’s what they’re comfortable with.

          1. Squirrel!

            Why would it be appropriate to call a coach “coach” at their day job? That seems completely unnecessary.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.

              I have known people who were referred to as Coach in their day-to-day non-coaching life. It always seemed weird. I think it’s safe to say it’s kind of a weird thing.

            2. EngineerGirl

              It could be a beloved title. We had one teacher that was amazing and took our baseball team to state championship (and beyond) every.single.year. You can’t do that unless you truly care about your students and lead them well. We all called him coach. Everyone, from the students to the other teachers. It was more of an affirmation of his positive influence on all of us Vs his job.

            3. Lyssa

              At my high school, several of the teachers were also coaches, and it was common to call them “Coach X” rather than “Mr. X.” I personally didn’t do it, but it was definitely normal even for students who were not on the team.

              1. Joey

                This reminds me of Cedric the entertainer telling a joke about a guy who wanted to go by the name Delicious.

              2. Callie

                That always irritated me when I was in school. You’re not my coach, I’m not on your team. I refused to call them coach and always called them Mr. I thought calling them “coach” made it super clear that they were REALLY just there to coach, and any teaching they did was just to fill up their FTE so they could be full time. (I had one coach who was actually a good teacher… and he didn’t go by “coach” in the classroom. Hmm.)

          2. Joey

            Except a reasonable person would be confused as to whether you’re acting in a religious capacity if you insist on your honorific at work. Is he telling me this in a religious capacity or a professional one?

            1. Observer

              No, it takes about 5 minutes (if that) to figure out whether someone is working in a religious or non-religious capacity (except, perhaps, in some types of counseling / pastoral situations.)

        2. Observer

          What sunny-dee said. Besides, he might very well be pretty noticeably Jewish – eg if he wears a skullcap (which would not be surprising if he’s making a point of being called “Rabbi”.)

        1. Monodon monoceros

          I don’t like Dr used in a setting where the doctorate, MD, DVM or whatever the Dr is for is not relevant and is therefore confusing. Say, for example, a person had a PhD in philosophy, and for some reason started working as an office manager in a physician’s office. To me it would be totally inappropriate for them to be called Dr. It would be confusing to the patients and would seem like they were trying to get on the same level as the physicians.

          1. Natalie

            There was a U of Phoenix commercial that ran a while back, featuring a women with a PhD in Nursing Administration or something similar, who worked in a hospital system and referred to herself very pointedly as “Dr.” whatever her name was. I cringed so hard every time I saw that commercial.

            1. Monodon monoceros

              That is terrible. Somehow it is even worse that the degree is somewhat related, but not really what people think of as a Dr in a medical setting.

            2. De Minimis

              I was sitting next to a guy on a plane a while back who gave me his business card…he used “Dr.” and I think I checked out his LinkedIn later and it turned out he had a doctorate in Business Administration from UOP.

              He was a fairly high ranking executive at a well-known company, so I guess it was one of those deals where he just needed a degree to advance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the company had paid his way.

    2. anne

      OK but … who cares? I’m atheist and would call someone rabbi if they wanted that. Even if I thought it was a little silly. You really have to pick your battles. I’m not going to annoy the rabbi and make things more difficult in the long run over something as dumb as his title.

    3. Jen RO

      My thoughts exactly. His religion has nothing to do with the workplace.

      (And I would feel the same if a PhD insisted on being called doctor outside of an academic setting, etc. Except that, as an atheist, the religious angle would make me extra uncomfortable.)

    4. EngineerGirl

      Most professional settings care about education. Rabbi is an indicator of education, just like honorable and doctor. They all take quite a bit of study to get the title! In this particular workplace they do use titles so it isn’t out of place to use rabbi any more than dr.

      1. Joey

        I don’t care if you have a phd in religious studies if you’re an engineer. It has nothing to do with your ability to be a good engineer so what’s the point?

        1. EngineerGirl

          In many countries they use the term “engineer” as a title just like Dr. or honorable. Even socially. It is a cultural thing. And in this companies culture they use titles. On one project they insisted that they used Dr. in front of their name if they had a PhD. I thought it was silly but went along with it because that wasn’t a hill I wanted to die on.
          I’m concerned making a distinction between religious titles and other titles. It is treating something differently for the sole reason that it has religious content. In the US we don’t do that. Everybody is supposed to get a seat at the table.

  5. ZSD

    Out of curiosity, how often would a rabbi be called “Mr.” in his daily life in general? I’m Catholic, and for a priest to be called anything other than “Father,” even when he’s not carrying out priestly duties, would seem odd to me.

    1. Observer

      That’s pretty much the same thing for Rabbis, at least among Orthodox Jews. By and large, if a guy has ordination, he’s called Rabbi, whether or not he’s a practicing Rabbi. (In fact, in some communities, the majority of guys with ordination don’t practice as Rabbis at all.

    2. the gold digger

      Yes, I as a Catholic will call a priest “father,” but that’s because I am Catholic. I would not expect non-Catholics to address a priest that way. (Although I would be wondering, “Who is this Mr Smith to whom my Baptist friend is talking and why is Father Bob nodding his head?”)

      1. Diet Coke Addict

        I’m also curious about this. All the priests I’ve known expected to be called Father Whatever in the course of religious things–at church, in the hospital ministering to people, at a Catholic school–but I don’t think non-Catholics or people who weren’t aware he was a priest would call him that in a nonreligious setting, and I’ve only ever met one priest who would be snotty about that type of thing. (Said priest was later defrocked and sent to jail for embezzling out of the collections plate to fund a hypothesized gambling and drinking habit, so there’s one data point.)

          1. TL -

            But presumably you were Catholic? I think it’s more a of a non-Catholic people, non-Catholic settings expectation – if someone told me they were a priest and introduced themselves as Father X when I met them at a party, I would be weirded out.

            1. ThursdaysGeek

              And, as a protestant, if I were introduced to a Father Whoever in a non-religions setting by Catholic friends, I’d refer to him as Father Whatever too. If that’s the title and name he wants, then I have no problem using it.

              1. Kelly O

                I may be in the minority in this, but I really don’t have a problem calling someone by their honorific – Father, Rabbi.. I don’t know any Muslims but I’m sure they have titles too.

                And I’m Protestant. We don’t really do titles, although we tease our pastor quite frequently about being The Reverend Doctor Insert Name Here. (We’ve been known to stand and say in as close to unison as we can get “Reverend Doctor Insert Name Here” but that is mainly because someone did it once and it was hilarious.)

                I guess I just don’t get the big deal. But I am a bit laid back about that sort of thing.

              1. TL -

                Sure, but you were interacting with him somewhat within a Catholic framework nonetheless. Of course he’s first your family member, but I think the addresses within a religious community are different than addresses from a member outside of a religious community.

                If I were in a church, I would refer to a priest as Father X, naturally, but outside of a church, it would depend heavily on the age difference and the context in which I interact with him, in a large part because I am not Catholic. Whereas most of my Catholic friends, I think, would always refer to a priest as Father, regardless of context. They are from a rather conservative, old-school Catholic tradition, though.

          2. bkanon

            Years ago, at my parents’ church, the piano player was the pastor’s mother. Everyone at the church was Brother Firstname or Sister Firstname when the pastor addressed them. So she was Sister Mom. He said it once and it has stuck for twenty years.

          3. Anonsie

            “Uncle Father” is adorable. When I was a kid we called my great grandfather Colonel Daddy– as adults we just refer to him as the colonel.

            That’s within the family, though, not an honorific we’d request of everyone. I guess it’s become more of a nickname of endearment.

        1. sunny-dee

          I am not Catholic, but my brother converted last year. I refer to his friends as Fr. Donovan, Fr. Define, and Deacon Scott, because that’s what they’re called. The other Catholic servants (I don’t know what you’d call it), I’ve always referred to as their title (Sister, mainly).

      2. Cath in Canada

        I would find it incredibly weird to call someone Father who’s not my Dad. Way weirder than calling someone Rabbi, or Reverend, or Imam, etc. I’m an atheist so I’m just plain not used to calling anyone by any religious title – but for me Father is the weirdest of the lot because I already have a father, and it’s probably the one title I would refuse to use!

        1. majigail

          As a Catholic, this is a viewpoint that I’ve never even considered! I appreciate you bringing it up.
          It’s weird, in my head Father has a much different connotation and meaning than my father (who I exclusively call Dad.)
          I work with many priests both in their vocation and in other nonprofit work and no one calls them any thing but Father First Name until you’ve had several drinks with them, then it’s just First Name. It’s still weird to me to just call them or any other religious sister or brother by their first name. The guys I work with are very down to earth though and I’ve heard some introduce themselves by just their first name.

          1. Ethyl

            “I work with many priests both in their vocation and in other nonprofit work and no one calls them any thing but Father First Name until you’ve had several drinks with them, then it’s just First Name. It’s still weird to me to just call them or any other religious sister or brother by their first name. The guys I work with are very down to earth though and I’ve heard some introduce themselves by just their first name.”

            This is 100% my experience. Of course there’s always Fr. Jerkface who insists on being called Monsignor Jerkface. But there’s always one guy who’s Captain Jerkface, so whatever.

            1. Karowen

              I know this is way after the fact, but: My mother was talking to her friend years ago about “Monsignor Smith.” It took me asking to figure out that she was talking about our parish priest, Father John – and I was an altar server, church every Sunday, would’ve wanted him to perform my wedding ceremony.

        2. A Cita

          Right. I think with Father, it gets really complicated for non-Catholics. Because Father isn’t just a title, it’s a word with meaning–it implies a place in a social (at the very least) hierarchy in patriarchal society. It implies a sort of intimate authority, which feel absurd to give recognition to for non-Catholics. I guess for me, titles are ‘just titles,’ but words with meaning when probed. That’s why I’m also opposed to using “Mrs.” or “Miss” as they convey more intimate information about a person that’s not relevant to the workplace (and not in the sense of knowing a coworker’s marriage status is weird–that usually happens anyway through casual conversation–but in the sense that I need to recognize a coworker’s marriage status when I address them).

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            Interesting. I’m not Catholic either, but when I say “Father Whoever” (because that’s how he introduced himself), the word ‘father’ goes into a different slot than when I’m referring to my own dad. So the words are spelled the same and sound the same, but they aren’t the same word and aren’t processed in my brain the same. One is my father, and one IS just a title.

            1. A Cita

              That’s so interesting. So you don’t connect the term “Father” with a title meaning general “authority figure.” I do still believe it passively enforces patriarchy (like casual racism and casual sexism), even if the individual user doesn’t apply that meaning to the word. But nonetheless, it’s intriguing on an etymological level that the word occupies completely different meanings and inferences in you mind.

              1. fposte

                I did some searching about forms of address for female Episcopalian priests and was intrigued to see how much discussion there was on the topic. I think for a lot of people “Father” for male priests is essentially a dead metaphor (that’s how it works for me psychologically, I’d say), but finding an alternative for women made the metaphor uncomfortably alive and vivid.

                Logic into Culture is tough math.

              2. Nashira

                I love this comment. So much of mainstream religions, especially Christianity in the US, is rooted in casual sexism and reinforcement of patriarchy. We’ve really got to cut that stuff out.

              3. ThursdaysGeek

                Nope. As a child, it was my mother who provided the discipline (none of this ‘wait until your father gets home’), and I viewed my father as a source of love and learning and adventure. I didn’t have any experience with a Catholic Father until I was in college, and since that was just a title, not a close relationship, I never organized them the same. But the word ‘father’ doesn’t mean ‘authority figure’ in either of those cases for me.

                I know the Catholic Father is titled to reflect the authority of the Christian God, and as a Protestant, I also accept that authority. But even so, based on my earliest understanding of the word, it is a very positive sense of authority.

                But Catholic Father? Nope, just a title, a descriptor, a way to categorize and name someone.

              4. Anonsie

                Oddly, I also have separate spaces for dad-father and Catholic-Father, but in my head “father” is associated with someone who is mild and nurturing and not at all authoritative… This is someone who is supportive and not judgmental, not someone who tells you what to do. And that only partially describes my father, so I’m not sure where it came from.

                Now father no longer looks or sounds like a real word.

                Father.

                Faaahtherrr.

              5. A Cita

                These are all such interesting comments. Thank you all for sharing! Maybe also, I wonder, if “authority” is too strict? Maybe “leader” is the right word (which still instills casual patriarchy because of context, but can also mean shepherd in terms of roles)? Does that change anyone’s sensibility? Or no? So fascinating!

        3. Traveler

          I find this interesting too, because even though I call a priest “Father” I never think of any connection to my actual father, until you put it that way. I think of it more in terms of a homograph.

    3. Andrea

      I was thinking the same thing! I went to Catholic school and work at a place that does weddings so I’m used to calling people Father and Reverand or Judge so and so, and I wouldn’t have blinked at being asked to call someone Rabbi at work because of our context. Am now realising that I must seem weird when visiting other institutions.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      Most rabbis I know (Conservative and Reform, which are less “strict” than Orthodox) get called “Mr.”– or “Ms.”!– fairly often. Less religious rabbis don’t wear anything that sets them apart, like a priest’s collar, so they’re not immediately identifiable as rabbis. (And any man can wear a yarmulke, he doesn’t have to be a rabbi.) I only know one guy who balked at being called “Mr.” instead of “Rabbi”; this was at a bookstore where I worked during college, in my heavily Jewish suburb. This guy thought EVERYONE should know who he was. He was a putz, and he was pretty rude to my co-worker. On the other hand, I’ve addressed rabbis by their title outside of the synagogue and have been told, “Call me Richard.”

      For what it’s worth, if I saw someone in religious garb and I had to address him/her, I would use the title if I knew it– “Father,” “Reverend,” “Sister,” etc. I consider that to be a sign of respect, and it certainly doesn’t dent my Judaism in any way. I don’t think it’s disrespectful not to do so, though.

      As far as the OP is concerned, I honestly think it’s weird to insist on being called “Rabbi” in a secular office setting. Unless he’s acting as a rabbi in his role, I just find it strange and kind of nit-picky. I would probably call him “Rabbi”, but I wouldn’t want to be chastised if I screwed up. My mother is a physician and always preferred being called “Mrs. Barksdale” by my friends– come to think of it, whenever she was mentioned in the synagogue bulletin, she used to get irritated when they used “Dr.”!

      1. fposte

        Yes, I think it’s the insisting on it that bugs. But to me my resistance would be agreeing that this is as important as he thinks it is, and I think it’s both too insignificant for him to insist and also too insignificant for me to bother pushing back on.

        1. Traveler

          This is how I feel. I’d find it a little weird, but I wouldn’t care enough to argue about it. If it makes him happy, okay.

      2. Observer

        There is a difference between asking for “rabbi” or “dr.” vs “mr” or “ms”, and “rabbi” or “dr” vs “fist name”, though.

        And, as it happens, among Orthodox Jews Rabbi’s don’t have special clerical garb either, so getting offended that someone didn’t know you are a Rabbi is pretty stupid (yes, anyone can and does wear skullcpas, hats and full beards…)

        While I do think that calling a guy Rabbi if he asks, in an environment where honorifics are routinely used, is simple courtesy, it’s not a hill I would want to make a stand on. And, even though I’m an Orthodox Jew, I don’t have a problem using titles like “Reverend”, either. I don’t see it as a religious statement, but simple courtesy.

    5. The IT Manager

      Yes, but let’s be honest. For a “Father” being a priest is his job no matter if he does it in a church, hospital, school, monistary. A Catholic Priest won’t have a day job not associated with religion so this won’t come up for him.

      That’s what I think is the wierd thing here. This Rabbi apparently has a non-religious day job. And that’s where is throws things off. “Rabbi” is a religious title, and he’s asking people to use it in a non-religious context where he’s working closely with peers, supervisors, and subordinates.

      * Although I find it odd that peers would call each other Mr/Mrs. I have trouble picturing this work enviroment.

      1. Chinook

        “Yes, but let’s be honest. For a “Father” being a priest is his job no matter if he does it in a church, hospital, school, monistary. A Catholic Priest won’t have a day job not associated with religion so this won’t come up for him.”

        Actually, you are wrong there. Many of the priestly orders also have “day jobs” associated with them that are not necessarily based in religious institutions (the Jesuits are known for their astronomers). Also, in working among the poor, sometimes priests remove their collars (and priestly identity) so that there is no barrier with the people whom they are serving (especially if those people have been harmed by a priest in the past). Ditto for nuns, deacons and brothers.

        That being said, he would have to be a jerk if he took offense at you not being able to read his mind and not call him by his appropriate title because a)he showed no outwards signs of it and/or b)you are not Catholic and don’t know how to tell his “rank” (and even Catholics can’t tell the difference between a priest, deacon or brother at a glance. With bishops, their only signifier is usually a flashier cross and/or the use of purple.)

        1. The IT Manager

          I am Catholic. I think percentage-wise most priests don’t have non-religious day jobs. Although you’re right in that I did not say “most” so I implied all.

          1. Annie

            Yea I was about to say that- the majority of priests (I only say that because I’m not familiar with every order) don’t have the option of their “day job” they are assigned as such. Jesuits are usually assigned or limited to the jobs they can take or apply for by the head of their order- part of their order is to not seek power that’s why having a Jesuit pope is such a big deal (also from my understanding he was able to accept because he didn’t seek it out and turned it down repeatedly).
            When I worked for a major church organization the priests were assigned there and also (though most Dioceses/Archdioceses gave more than fair warning- 6 months+ in many cases) they could pull them if they were needed else where- and the do move them all the time. With the lack of Catholic Priests right now there are few that are able to work outside a parish or religious institution.

            At the same time my great uncle was a priest- a Franciscan (he wore the burlap robes) and left the priesthood late in life and was married (to a former nun). When he left the priesthood he was Mr. McD rather than Father McD (as was his wife rather than Sister firstname she was Mrs. McD).

          2. Traveler

            Perhaps not Fathers since their primary responsibility is usually to run a church- but almost all the Sisters I knew had day jobs. Teachers, archivists, nurses, running houses for the poor etc. Now, they often have Catholic affiliation, but a lot of them work with the secular population. I can’t imagine calling a Sister “Ms.” – particularly since they tend to go by their first names. I never noticed the public calling them anything but Sister Jane and Sister Mary.

            1. Annie

              Also- Christian Brothers – they go by Brother firstname and have much more “public” jobs rather than priests- a lot of them are teachers, and medical workers. They go by Brother____ or by their first name. (Also not a lot of them left so might be a dying breed thing)

              1. Diet Coke Addict

                I went to a high school run and staffed by an order of brothers! They’re doing very well, but not so much in the English-speaking part of the US–most of their order’s work tends to focus on low-income Spanish-speaking communities in California/Texas, and in Mexico and Central America.

                1. Annie

                  I was thinking of the Christian Brother’s in New Jersey/New York- my mom’s uncle was one and worked as a teacher- but when he was near the end of his life there weren’t more Brothers to take over his role- it went to a lay person. Financially they were doing fine- numbers wise they (along with the majority of Catholic religious vocations) are struggling.

        2. Traveler

          Don’t forget teachers/professors. Though, it’s usually still at an institution with Catholic affiliation, so not sure you could quite call it “secular”.

      2. Observer

        That’s just the thing. The people I mentioned were all doing secular work – even though in many cases their choices were spurred by their religious convictions. In fact, when you are dealing with even partially government funded entities, which is a good chunk of the non-profit social service sector, you are NOT ALLOWED to be “on the job” as a religious functionary while working for the organization. Most of them manage this quite nicely. (The ones that don’t tend to be problematic anyway, in my experience.)

      3. A Cita

        This Rabbi apparently has a non-religious day job. And that’s where is throws things off. “Rabbi” is a religious title, and he’s asking people to use it in a non-religious context where he’s working closely with peers, supervisors, and subordinates.

        Yeah, I’m trying to picture calling my Wiccan co-worker, High Priestess Smith. Even in a workplace that uses titles (which, agree, weird to me too), it just seems weirdly decontextualized.

        At the same time, not my hill to die on, and regardless of my opinion, I’m happy to call people by their titles if that’s what they want. I mean, I may think it’s weird but it costs me nothing.

    6. Adam

      I think it depends on the context of the relationship. For a lot of people they met the pastor or rabbi specifically by attending a place of worship so that’s how they know them and is a key part of their identity to them. Also if the person with the religious title is actually committed to his work it’s not so much a job as a calling that pertains over their whole life, so they may never really be “off the clock” in their minds even if they are in a more relaxed social setting.

      But if you just randomly met said person at a non-religious gathering I’d be surprised if they introduced themselves as Pastor So and So and would expect you to call them as such.

      1. sunny-dee

        Actually, that’s exactly how they introduce themselves. At least in the Protestant church, I have always heard pastors introduce themselves as Rev. Something or Dr. Something. Much like doctors introduce themselves as doctor. I’ve even heard high school coaches do the same thing (because so many people just call them coach).

        1. Adam

          Interesting. I suddenly realized that all pastors and such that I remember meeting probably first happened in a religious building. That I can recall I’ve never met a pastor outside of that context that I’m aware of.

          1. Ezri

            My husband, when we were dating, interned with a large protestant church for a couple of years. He told me that the pastors there were always ‘Pastor So-and-So’, whether they were being addressed at a Church function or outside of it. However, I’ve been to other places where the Pastor was just ‘So-and-So’ at functions outside the church. In that particular denomination use of the honorific seemed to be based on church culture.

            My husband actually wants to be a pastor someday, but I doubt he would ask people in a secular job to call him Pastor instead of Mister. Outside of the particular religious institution, I imagine it depends on the individual and their religious practices.

        2. The Maple Teacup

          I once worked in a religious non-profit organization. One of my co-workers (who had the same job title as me) was a part time pastor. I just knew him as “Firstname.” The organization also had two pastors working for them, who I called “Pastor Bob”.

    7. Chinook

      As a Catholic who travelled with a priest who only wore his collar for official meetings, calling him anything other Father (i.e. using his first name) was a sign of him moving from “priest” to “friend” or “travel companion.” When he wore the collar, he was called by his title, when he was incognito (for ex: wearing a large Dr. Seuss hat), he wasn’t. To me, that is the difference – is the rabbi wearing the signs of his “rabbi-ness” or is he “incognito”?

      Side note – when travelling with said priest, there were 4 other women along with us and we had fun with people wondering which one of us was his wife because he wore a wedding band and we women didn’t. When we camped outside one night, it was also decided that I got to sleep next to him because he and I were closest in age (late 20’s vs. the other women in their early 20’s). So, I forever get to brag that I slept with a priest. :)

    8. EngineerGirl

      I think it is out of recognition that you never really get to leave your job, even when you are off the clock. People can and will phone for help at all hours. The same goes for doctors, military, etc. You don’t really get to stop being that title even when you sitting on a park bench. The next second your services are needed. You never get to disconnect – your job could pop up any second.
      I think that is a huge discriminator between those jobs and regular work day jobs. For that reason, I see no problem with calling that person by their title.

        1. A Cita

          Back in my graphic designer days, my bosses at one job called me High Priestess of PostScript. And I was on the clock at all times. Hmmmm…

        2. Karowen

          I’m with fposte – especially in today’s world where everyone is expected to be 100% connected 100% of the time, there are a lot of professions that are always on.

          1. EngineerGirl

            There’s a difference. Yes, employers expect people to always be there. But that comes from the employer.
            If a doctor or police officer or priest failed to respond when called society itself would condemn them, not just the employer.

      1. danr

        Once I was approached by a drunk in Central Park who wanted to discuss religion with the Rabbi (me). I had black hair and a full beard, so I was a Rabbi.

        1. A Cita

          I’m sorry. I’m usually good about not making assumptions about people. But I was deep in my cups, as I usually am whilst tottering through the park.

  6. Observer

    I’d say that “Rabbi” would be more akin to “Dr.” for someone with a PhD than a military title (at least in the US.) “Rabbi” is not just a religious function, it’s also essentially a degree. Also, it’s been my experience that the titles that go along with many religious functions are used even in purely secular contexts. Perhaps it’s because I work in the non-profit sector, but I’ve met a number of people who go by titles such as Reverend and Sister in purely secular contexts.

    Of course, if everyone is on first name terms, that’s a whole different question. But, that didn’t sound like the issue.

    1. A Jane

      When they’re making introductions to individuals outside of the organization, do you introduce themselves as “Reverend” or “Sister”? And how about other colleagues?

      1. Observer

        Yes. At the moment, there is only one Rabbi in my organization. But all of the people I’m referring to were introduced to me (even in a couple of cases by people who work for government agencies) as Sister This or Reverned That.

      2. bridget

        In my very religious community, I sometimes use Mr./Ms. (or first names, depending on the context) to purposefully signal that I am outside of the organization. In my community, that means I avoid using Brother/Sister (peer titles) in favor of first names, and even more particularly I decline to use the title of those who are authority figures within the church, mostly as a signal that I don’t consider them an authority figure because I am outside of their realm of influence. A few weeks ago, I met someone who is a higher-up authority figure in my church of origin, and although he introduced himself as FirstnameLastname, I certainly recognized him as an authority figure and knew that anyone who did consider themselves part of the same church would say “Hello, TitleLastname.” I went with “Nice to meet you, Mr. Lastname.”

      3. Oryx

        I have extended family who are Catholic and at social events like birthday parties or whatever I have frequently been introduced to family friend “Sister FirstName”

        1. Michele

          My great uncle was a priest and only his brothers and sisters referred to him by his first name. I always called him Father Irvin.

          1. Oryx

            I have a cousin who is a priest and I think everyone, including his mom, my aunt, calls him Father. I don’t really see him that often and usually just call him Joseph but he’s never corrected me. If he did, I’d call him whatever he wanted.

    2. Katie the Fed

      Ayatollah would be similar as well then, since it’s an academic degree as well as religious title. Of course I’m not likely to encounter a whole lot of Ayatollahs in my working life.

        1. fposte

          That’s dynastic, though, isn’t it? So it’s more akin to the Lady/Lord question than the Rabbi situation.

          1. nosilycurious

            I doubt anyone will see this a year later, but it could actually be either. It is used for the heads of big families (usually tribal) in the Middle East Gulf region and other Arab countries, but it is also a title for the Muslim equivalent of a priest. The latter usually are graduates of prestigious religious institutions, such as AlAzhar in Egypt, and are dedicated to study and interpretation of religious policies, texts, practices, etc.

    3. AnonyMouse

      Yep, agreed. It’s a credential/title the person has earned, just like a PhD or an MD. Most people I’ve encountered who have a title like Rabbi, Sister, Reverend etc use that in situations where people are going by titles. And I’m not Christian, but I would call someone Father ____ rather than Mr. ____ without a problem if they asked.

  7. Ash (the other one)

    I spent 6 long years getting my PhD, so in contexts where “Mr. and Ms./Mrs.” are used, I want my title, Dr. I bristle, especially when I am called “Mrs. MarriedName.” I refuse to be “Mrs.” Yes, I’m married. Yes, I took his last name. But I hate “Mrs.” and I earned my doctorate, dang it!

    1. Bend & Snap

      Really? So if you were, say, at your kids’ school you would want them to call you Dr. Whatever instead of Mrs/Ms?

      1. Ash (the other one)

        I would prefer “Ms.” in that case. I refuse to be “Mrs.” and when forms ask me for my title, I always put Dr. My mom is a PhD as well as was always “Dr.” as was my father, a medical professional. When we did my wedding invites last year, our wedding planner told us that the proper for a Ph.D./M.D. couple was “Dr. Jane Doe and Doctor John Doe.” So yes, I am either Dr. Last Name or Ash or Ms. Last Name. If you call me Mrs. I will say something, and my usual request will be Dr.

        1. Carrington Barr

          Good for you.

          Any mail (always junk mail, luckily) that calls me “Mrs.” goes straight in the trash, and, depending on my mood, the sender gets a nasty yet very professional letter.

          And I’m not even married.

          1. Ezri

            The minute I got married my MIL started sending us mail as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Ezri’s-Husband’. I was very tempted to send letters back to ‘Ezri’s Husband’s Mom’, but she’d probably think it was cute.

        2. LibbyG

          I have a PhD. It’s not traditional to write “Doctor So-and-So.” You can either append the degree — as in Brainy McMsmartysmith, PhD or Dolores Paine, MD — or just leave it off. Spoken, it’s a title. Written, it’s a credential. Writing out “Doctor” just seems lame to me. My campus doesn’t seem to agree with me. My office nameplate and nametag both say “Dr.” I made sure that my business cards didn’t.

    2. Joey

      I don’t undersand this either unless you’re in an academic role. What is the point except to point out your education? It’s like demanding subordinates to call you sir or ma’am. It sort of reminds me of the folks who list MBA on their business cards.

      1. LittleT

        @Joey: I work with a lot of people who insist on using the “MBA” on their business cards, even though they have other credentials, like PhD or industry related designations. I even have people in my team who use their bachelor’s on their cards, i.e. John Doe, BSc. or Jane Schmo, B.A.

        Unless it’s directly applicable to the person’s role, I see no point adding it to the card.

        1. Jillociraptor

          This is probably not the same reason people do this in your workplace but I once worked in a research institute where it was requested that all staff put their highest degree earned in their email signature…I suspect so that the PhDs knew who they could ignore. Academic institutions are VERY stratified by degree.

        2. Cassie

          I see a lot of this from our university business offices – just a quick scan through some email signatures, I see MHA, MISM, MPA, JD, MBA, etc. I can see where a JD might be relevant to licensing/IP roles, but I’m not at all interested in finding out what all those M– degrees are. Their jobs don’t require them. Or like a marketing person listing that he has a PhD in education. Um, that’s nice?

          I know someone who has their MA diploma (in education) hanging on the wall in their office. I find it a little silly – sure, I guess it’s an accomplishment that you got a master’s in education even though midway through you decided you didn’t want to be a teacher anymore, but your whole job consists of data entry. I don’t think anyone (especially these STEM-field graduate students & PhD-carrying faculty members) are impressed with your master’s. But at least it’s not bothering anyone by just hanging on the wall.

      2. Katie the Fed

        We have people here who put their law degrees in theirs too, even though we don’t practice law. If you’re including “Esq.” or a master’s (or god forbid Bachelor’s degree), I’m probably judging you :)

          1. Katie the Fed

            Nah, that wouldn’t really be allowed here.

            But let’s just say in the Venn diagram of “people who include ‘Esq” in their signature block” and “People I can’t stand” has a very large intersection.

            1. fposte

              I’d be willing to expand this to “people who are very keen to let you know of their credentials and degrees.”

              1. Chinook

                “I’d be willing to expand this to “people who are very keen to let you know of their credentials and degrees.”

                I laugh at this because the only time I have ever wanted poeple to know my degree (B.Ed. thank you very much) was after I had an accountant describe to me in detail how to address an envelope for the mail. I patiently did not roll my eyes but did ask my Office Manager if I could bring in my degree to put behind the reception desk as proof that I am not an uneducated idiot and should not be treated as such (I also contemplated, briefly, tattoing it to my forehead but realized that those who treat receptionists as morons also don’t make eye contact with us, so it would be pointless).

            2. Turanga Leela

              I just checked, and there’s no Esq. in my signature block… but there is one on my business cards. Oh dear.

        1. bridget

          I *sort of* get it in contexts where someone with a J.D. isn’t practicing law, but often communicates with or works with lawyers. They want to get the same respect or signal that they are one of them. For instance, I know a J.D. holder who works in an administrative capacity in my local court system who uses “Esq.”, or admin support positions at the local bar offices who use it. Even though I guess it makes sense, it comes off as slightly insecure about the position one has chosen to take on, and suggests (maybe rightly) that practicing attorneys will treat you better or with more respect (although shouldn’t I be just as nice to the clerks/admins whether they went to law school or not?).

          1. JB

            Yes, one should, but let’s face it, doesn’t every attorney know at least one attorney who talks down to people who aren’t attorneys? I’ve certainly seen my share of “who do you think you’re talking to, I’m an attorney” on display. Like you, I kinda get using Esq when you work with or interact with other attorneys. I don’t think I’d do it, but I understand it.

            1. bridget

              Sure, but in practical terms, the kinds of lawyers who talk down to non-attorneys also talk down to attorneys who aren’t practicing, or who aren’t in as prestigious of a firm as they are, etc. etc. There’s not a lot of winning with those jerks.

              Also, sometimes (depending on the context) I think it could actually be seen as condescending on the part of the Esq. toward his or her co-workers. If you’re too obvious about “I don’t really belong with all these support staff people, I belong with all of you lawyers,” it can come off as mean to your non-lawyer colleagues. Like, the reason you deserve respect is because you’re different than all of the other people (with the unstated suggestion that one could disrespect them, or something).

          2. Cath in Canada

            Exactly – I have PhD after my name in my email signature because I work in academia (as a grant writer / project manager), and the professors I have to bug about sending me pieces of text, editing/approving documents etc respond much better to people with PhDs than people without. (My team’s a mix of PhDs and non-PhDs, and It Is Known that this is the case). But we all use first names to address each other, from the head of department down, so no-one ever calls me Doctor. I’ve only ever said “actually, it’s Doctor” like, twice, and both times were to men who were being incredibly condescending to me.

          3. Anonsie

            That’s a thought. Now that you mention it, I have noticed that the support staff where I work (academic medicine) always make sure to list their education in their email signature, business cards, etc if it’s both relevant and unusual.

            And actually, I appreciate it, because it can be a shortcut to know what parts of your work needs to be explained when you contact someone. For example, with one of our regulatory groups, I normally have to back up and explain the function of the department and the standards by which certain work is done because they are not familiar with it. But there is one person in the group who has an MPH, so she has a background that allows me to skip a lot of the exposition that otherwise goes into my emails and materials for her colleagues.

        2. Traveler

          I’m going to go ahead and say for a long time (into my 20s when I met someone in person who used this) I didn’t know Esq. had anything to do with law, and it always read as “Escort” in my mind. Oops.

      3. Lynne

        The librarians at my work have MLIS on their cards. Including me…I do think it makes sense to have it there; I’m in systems and sometimes people ask if I’m a librarian or someone with an IT background – not that you couldn’t be both, but mostly people are one or the other, and you can’t tell which I am from my title. I would feel stuffy if I also put it in my email signature, though if that were the organizational culture I’d probably go along with it. (I think we would all feel stuffy if we did that, and that’s why it *isn’t* the culture.)

    3. Big10Professor (was AdjunctForNow)

      The convention is that only medical doctors use doctor in a social setting. If you have a doctorate, sorry, you’re still Ms. on an invitation.

      1. Ash (the other one)

        Not according to my wedding planner. All of my friends, family, and colleagues with PhDs were Dr. on my invites.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Miss Manners disagrees! She writes: “Only people of the medical profession correctly use the title of doctor socially. A really fastidious doctor of philosophy will not use it professionally either, and schools and scholarly institutions where it is assumed that everyone has an advanced degree use Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms.”

          1. Oryx

            I think that might be for envelope addressing. In social settings she says to address people as they wish to be addressed.

            1. LouG

              Yes, I was responding to Big10 saying “f you have a doctorate, sorry, you’re still Ms. on an invitation.”

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            It’s for social situations, where you’re interacting in person. Here’s a direct link.

            She does go on to say that her principle is to let people call themselves whatever they want — but on the question of what the correct usage is, her answer is the one above.

              1. fposte

                I don’t think that’s the opposite of what Alison says–I think it’s echoing it. In that column, MM notes the schools of thought on Dr. and points out that the “address people as they wish to be addressed” is the ruling principle here regardless of which school you adhere to.

          3. sunny-dee

            She’s also wrong. Protestant clerics often have a doctorate, and are then called “doctor” instead of “reverend” in formal address. Or, if you’re going all 19th century, I think you can do the Reverend Doctor Something.

            1. A Cita

              Yes. I was going to say this. Even in the U.S., I believe the “Doctor” title for medical professionals is honorary (or a misnomer). (Correct me if I’m wrong.) Doctorates are the earned Doctor titled. Even academic MDs who focus on research don’t have the same level of intense research training and expertise as doctorates and often rely on PhDs on advisory panels or with academic center etc to conduct rigorous research (especially quantitative, mixed methods, and qualitative health science research–clinical research trials are a bit different but still depend a lot on PhDs in bench science).

              1. Anonsie

                This is an interesting perspective because I also hear it emphasized the other way– the PIs with MDs rely on their research scientists with PhDs, absolutely. But the PIs are still all MDs or, in many cases, MD/PhDs. The PhDs doing the majority of the bench work around here are employed by the MDs… I hear it told that if you want to both work on the bench and be directing your own work, the MD/PhD is necessary.

                1. A Cita

                  Huh. Not so in my institution (east coast Ivy League), but as we see, it’s so context driven, that it’s hard to make many generalizations about academia. So, that is to say, mea culpa!

            2. Cassie

              I watch some British tv shows and I find it fascinating that some medical doctors are only addressed as Mr. while others are addressed as Dr. I just finished watching the ITV show Breathless which is centered around a hospital in the 60s – from what I can tell, both men – Powell and Truscott – perform surgeries and see patients. So what’s the difference? And how could you tell what to call them (e.g. if you were a nurse and weren’t specifically introduced to them)?

              1. UK Nerd

                ‘Mr.’ is a mark of honour accorded to surgeons in Britain and some other Commonwealth countries. Someone training as a surgeon will be called ‘Doctor’ until they obtain their surgical qualification. While I haven’t seen the show, I would assume that the one called Mr. is a qualified surgeon and the other is a trainee.

                By default I’d call a surgeon Mr. or Ms. unless told otherwise.

        2. Helka

          When I did social invites for my socially very well-connected parents, it was Dr. for PhDs as well! Although granted, they were in museums/historical preservation so we were tripping around the edges of academia pretty frequently.

      2. Beebs

        I agree 100%. And I have a PhD. Even at my academic place of employment, I don’t insist on Dr. It feels pretentious to me. I bust out the title only when I need to prove my bona fides in a work situation where people don’t know me and it would matter that I have a terminal degree. Which isn’t often–letters of rec, mostly.

        1. Simonthegrey

          My mother in law has her Ph.D. She never uses Dr. Lastname unless it is a professional setting. On our invites, she wanted Mrs. Lastname. As far as she is concerned, Dr. Lastname is her work persona, and why would she want to take work home with her every day?

          Meanwhile, my MA was a terminal degree, but I don’t ask everyone to address me as Master Lastname. Maybe I should, however.

          1. Amy C

            I have wanted to insist on people calling me Master lastname ever since I got my MS. I work in an academic setting, so I’m surrounded by MDs, PhDs, EdDs, and MD/PhDs. We’re casual, but I still think people should call me Master. :)

            As for the Rabbi, I would call him whatever he wanted. Doesn’t hurt me to respect his wishes. (I am an atheist, but my father was a Reverend Doctor. Or Dr. Daddy.)

        2. A Cita

          I think a lot of this also depends on your field. PhDs in the social science or humanities departments (regardless of their discipline) don’t often use their titles or initials. However, in most departments of medicine, it’s the very done thing (again, regardless of discipline), at least in documentation of any sort. It’s also much more hierarchical. At my institution, they even like to list all the degrees it took to get to their PhD or MD (imagine a faculty member in public health: Wakeen A. Joaquin, PhD, MPH.–even though the MPH was not a terminal degree).

    4. NL

      Maybe this is regional, but I’ve always understood it to be considered gauche to use Dr. socially unless you’re a medical doctor.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        That reminds me of an episode of friends where Rachel’s dad is in the hospital and her an Ross go to visit him, Ross introduces himself to one of the nurses as Dr Gellar. Rachel’s response was “shhhh that actually means something here”

      2. Laura

        That’s my understanding as well. It reminds me of a distant family member who insisted – INSISTED – that he be called “Doctor.” Guy is a veterinarian.

        (In case anyone thinks I am getting down on vets and/or animals, I am highly involved in animal rescue, so I need and respect vets – but I still think it’s silly for them to insist on being called “Doctor” in a social setting.)

        1. teclatwig

          Well, but he went to med school, right? And he is a doctor of veterinary medicine? Pretty sure I call my dentist Dr. too.

    5. Cat

      This one I kind of disagree with – a lot of people accomplish a lot of things professionally, and insisting that that be recognized in a social setting is invariably kind of gauche.

    6. ZSD

      I’m going to stand up for Ash on this one. Being called “Dr.” in social settings may be nontraditional, but I think it’s a reasonable request.
      I think it’s particularly reasonable for women to push back on the tendency for males with PhDs to be called “Dr.” while females with PhDs often get called “Ms./Mrs.” In cases where an academic couple (two professors) were teaching in the same department, I’ve seen undergraduates automatically call the male, “Dr. Smith,” but the female, “Mrs. Smith.” Grr.
      So I can understand wanting to push back.
      But then, I’m a woman with a PhD as well. So I might be biased. :)

      1. Lily in NYC

        There is no way would I call a person with a PhD “Dr So and So” unless it was an academic or work setting. Regardless of their gender. I would estimate that more than half of my social group has PhDs and not one of them uses Dr. outside of work.

        1. Lily in NYC

          OK, now that I think about it, I’m a hypcocrite. I would call someone Rabbi or Father in a social setting if the person preferred it, so I really don’t have a valid reason not to call someone Dr if that’s what they want. I think I’m stuck on the fact that it seems a bit pretentious when it’s not a professional setting.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I think it’s because we’re used to titles for religious leaders and medical doctors. But we don’t typically use honorifics for other professions, so it comes off very strangely to use one that indicating the type of degree you have in other contexts, just like we wouldn’t address someone as MBA Jones or MSW Smith.

            I’d argue that PhDs sometimes get away with using Dr outside academia because “doctor” is a title we’re all familiar with and comfortable using for medical doctors, but that if the title were any other, it would be more clearly patently ridiculous.

            1. Ash (the other one)

              Medical doctors have a “doctorate in medicine.” I have a doctorate in philosophy. We’re both doctors. I think my views are grounded in the fact that my mother as a phd was always Dr., too, and I earned my title just as medical doctors earned theirs.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                But the convention is that only medical doctors use it socially. I’m sure you don’t agree that people with masters should be address as Master! They earned that title too — but it’s still convention not to use it, as is the case with PhDs in most settings.

                1. Ash (the other one)

                  Okay, then, what about a Vet? They are traditionally called “Dr. So-and-so” too, but I don’t want them practicing medicine on me any more than a Ph.D. in biology.

                2. Beebs

                  What if a sudden ontological disagreement needs to be settled? Or a memo needs to be put into a sonnet form on short notice? Totally you could need a doctor of philosophy.

                3. Mpls

                  Vets are medical doctors. Their specialty just happens to be animals other than humans. Dentists are medical doctors too – even though they have DDS, rather than an MD. Medicine is made up of a lot of specialties, but they all have to have some commonalities.

                  I’m ok having any of the above treating me in an emergency. Come to think of it, all we had was a vet and a dentist on hand at the last family reunion. We all survived (and didn’t call either of the Dr., just their first names).

                4. Pennalynn Lott

                  If I was on a camping trip and gashed my leg wide open on a rock, I would hands-down want my friend who is a doctor of veterinary medicine to stitch me up versus a friend who is a doctor of philosophy. No contest.

              2. fposte

                Of course, by that logic you’d have to call lawyers “Dr.” as well, since they earned a juris doctor. (I hate to say this because there will be lawyers who will be all over this.)

                The social convention isn’t based on the notion that it’s a status above Mr. or Mrs. and that doctors were higher status–that’s a modern retcon. If anything, it involves doctors being slightly lower in status, and that those of us who’ve pondered the wonders of whatever for years don’t want to be mistaken for tradesmen. (It gets really amusing in Britain when you factor in the surgeons-don’t-get-called-Dr thing, which used to be actual snobbery and is now often reverse snobbery.)

                1. Cat

                  Actually, oddly enough, that is literally the only possible pretension that lawyers don’t ever seem to jump on. Possibly because “esquire” serves the same purpose.

                2. Elysian

                  Sometimes people refer to their JD as a juris doctorate and then I cry a little inside. Thanks for getting it right!!
                  But yeah, a JD isn’t a “doctorate” – its something all its own and weird. In fact people have an understandable amount of trouble trying to figure out whether its a “masters” or a “doctorate” equivalent when you need to make it equivalent to something. I think (most) lawyers understand that’s its a different beast and so wouldn’t equate to a medical doctor or PHd. We don’t have to do a dissertation, plus its only a terminal degree from a practice perspective. If you want to rack up the legal degrees, you can still get an LLM.

            2. JC

              I have a PhD and don’t use Dr. in social settings. But now I also feel very silly addressing physicians as Dr. in social settings, too. I’ll call my physician Dr. when I am in a business setting (i.e., in their office), but I won’t call a physician I know socially Dr.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’m all for pushing back within an academic context where the use of the title is appropriate. But I’m with others that it doesn’t come off well to use it outside of that context.

        1. Judy

          The only time my sister gets in a snit about the title is when they get something addressed to Dr & Mrs. Lastname. Since both of them are MDs. She doesn’t care about Mr & Mrs Lastname.

          1. Oryx

            My parents have family friends where the wife has an MD and the husband does not and they will sometimes get invitations addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Lastname.

      3. A grad student

        A year later, but I totally agree- my father and his sister both have PhDs. He is invariably called Dr. Lastname while people usually call her Mrs. Husbandsname at first (and she didn’t take husband’s name!). If both I and my fiance end up with PhDs, I can’t say I won’t be miffed if he ends up Dr Hisname while I end up Mrs. Hisname. It might come across as pompous, but damn- if the men earned their titles, why didn’t we?

    7. Ann O'Nemity

      I’m the opposite. I have a PhD but I would never use Dr. socially. It seems pretentious to me. That said, I do have “Ann O’Nemity, PhD” on my business cards.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        I think that’s absolutely the right way to do it. Your business cards are for your business, which is where your title/degree are important– that holds true for any professional degree. Socially, I agree that it sounds really pretentious. As I mentioned before, my mom’s a medical doctor, and she (and my stepfather and all their other doctor friends) never insists on being called “Dr.” in a social setting.

        This all gets really fun when sending formal invitations.

      2. De Minimis

        I would have a hard time calling my professors by their first names even these days, unless we became more closely acquainted socially.

    8. kdizzle

      They’ve actually done a study where researchers called the voicemail of professors in the California public university system. The better the school’s rating, the less likely they were to hear ‘you’ve reached Doctor…’ start the voice mail greeting.

      1. fposte

        Oh, that’s hilarious, and that’s absolutely my experience. At institutions where everybody has a PhD, the person who demands to be called “Doctor” is looked on askance.

        Of course, that doesn’t really translate to rabbis.

        1. Jake

          I learned early on, call them all “professor.” No last name, no doctor, no nothing. That way I never accidentally called them an inaccurate name, and in academia it is generally an accepted thing to call professors.

          1. Monodon monoceros

            Except in Europe, I am learning. Apparently earning the title Professor is a BFD, not just someone who teaches at a University. I did not realize this until I moved from the US to Europe (and I work with a bunch of academics in both places).

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.

              Actually, I think it is a kinda big deal here too! I had a journalism professor in college, and he was a professor by title at the school, worked full-time, etc, but insisted that he wasn’t technically allowed to be called “professor” because he didn’t have a terminal degree (he’d never finished his doctoral thesis).

              Having just read the Wiki on it, it sounds like capital-P Professors must have a terminal degree, while lower-case professor is a term used casually to refer to anyone who teaches at the collegiate level. So the answer, as is often the case, is that America has the same rules as other places, and just cares about them less. :)

              1. Jake

                I had a couple professors without a PhD and they never bristled at being called professors. Their job description was adjunct professor, but nobody really cared about distinguishing tenure track professors from adjuncts. They never ever referred to themselves as professor xyz unless they were tenure track professors though, so I’m sure you’re correct in your assessment that technically I’m not correct, but nobody actually cared about that in the classroom setting.

            2. Cath in Canada

              Yeah, the European system is very different. In North America you’re typically an assistant professor, and can use the title Professor, from the first day of your first tenure-track job; in equivalent jobs in other countries you’re called a lecturer or reader or similar, and use the title Doctor. In those countries, only much more senior people are ever formally appointed Professor. My PhD supervisor made the switch at least a decade after starting the equivalent of an assistant professor job.

              1. Cassie

                Our lecturers/temp faculty have doctorates – I think students tend to call them Prof. So-and-So, even though they don’t have the formal title of Professor. The alternative would be to call them Dr. So-and-So (which some students do). And with Adjunct Professors, it would be a little awkward to call them “Adjunct Professor So-and-So” – so we just go with “Professor So-and-So”.

      2. A Teacher

        That’s funny. I adjunct and some of the tenured/tenure track staff actually want to make it a rule that all of non-tenure track instructors use “Ms./Mr./Mrs.” or “Professor” with our students because they “don’t like when students call them by their first names.” There was some major push back from the adjunct faculty as many of us felt it was our class so we will do as we want. Some of the same ones pushing for this change get upset when they are called “Bob” or “Kathy” by the non-tenure track people yet they have no problem addressing me by my first name. My student call me by my first name at the college level because it is my preference. I only make my high school students where I teach full time call me by my last name because we’re required to, most of them call me a shortened version of my last name anyway which works.

        I like a world where adults are a adults and titles don’t really matter, but that’s me. Just as a “doctor” worked for their title, I worked as long and as hard for multiple graduate degrees, go me (insert eye roll).

    9. Episkey

      And people probably do an internal eye roll at you! I hope you know that you’re probably coming across as pretty pretentious or people are assuming you are a medical doctor. If you don’t care, then have at it!

      1. Jake

        I came here to say something very similar.

        I’ll call anybody whatever they want, but if they think for one second that I’m not judging them for wanting to be called by a title that means nothing to me, they are sadly mistaken.

    10. Ash (the other one)

      I think the key is defining “social setting.” The OP was asking about work, and yes, at work when people address me with my last name, it is “Dr.” Do I go to an appointment and when they call me “Ms. LastName” correct them and say “no, no its “Dr.” — No. I will say something if the call me “Mrs.” to which I usually say, just call me “Ash.” Do I make my friends call me Dr.? No. Do I want my invitations to say Dr.? Absolutely.

      When I’m introduced in a work related event/networking am I Dr.? Yes.

        1. Ash (the other one)

          I think because I’d rather still be called “Ash” or “Dr. Last Name.” I will put up with “Ms.” but its not my preference. You obviously disagree with me on this, but that’s not going to change the fact that my name is Dr. Ash LastName.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            But why is that any different from a police officer saying “My name is Officer Jane Smith” or me saying “my name is Blogger Alison Green”? The convention is that it isn’t.

            I think it’s totally your call if you want to use it as long as you’re aware how it’s coming across to people, but I don’t understand bristling when people don’t use it on their own. It makes sense that they’re not using it; they’re not using it for all the reasons that have been discussed here.

            1. Diet Coke Addict

              In a weird semantic note, in the military community at least, the locution is very specifically either “I am Rank So-and-so” OR “My name is So-and-so, I am a Rank.” The idea is that A) your parents did not give you the name of “Warrant Officer Blah Blab” unless they are very unusual people indeed, and B) your rank changes throughout the career, unlike your name. To introduce oneself “My name is Warrant Blabsalot” would be considered quite….gauche, I suppose, in a way that I’m not sure tracks over to academia at all. I suppose it comes down to whether or not you consider the honorific part of your actual name, or something that precedes it.

              1. fposte

                That’s actually traditional etiquette. You also don’t say “I’m Mr. Beeblebrox,” because you don’t give yourself a title. Unfortunately, because it’s a really good way of indicating what you’d like to be called.

            2. Ezri

              I’m totally introducing myself to everyone as ‘Software Developer Ezri’ from now on. Hmm… or maybe ‘Programmer Ezri’, that’s less of a mouthful.

          2. fposte

            “Dr.” isn’t your name, though; that’s your title, which is different from your name, unless you got your name legally changed upon receipt of the doctorate.

      1. Ash (the other one)

        I’ll also add here, I think most people in a work setting default to Dr. for Ph.D. anyway. I’ve worked in government, non-profit, and academia(ish) think tank and in all have had my name as “Ash LastName, Ph.D.” More often than not, if someone is first calling me or emailing me, they address it as Dr. LastName. I really don’t think it’s that unusual.

        1. fposte

          I think that’s because academia is filled with people like the OP’s rabbi colleague who will be offended otherwise, and those of us who don’t go by Dr. aren’t offended to be called it. It’s the safety out.

  8. Oryx

    I wonder how much of the religious aspect is throwing this off? That is, the title of Rabbi is presumably earned, yes? That is, it’s not one that someone can just adopt without work and education. So, really, not unlike that of a Doctor, be it Medical or PhD. If the OP had a co-worker who asked to be refereed to as Dr. Smith, would they still be writing in?

    1. One Way

      This. I think if the Rabbi something along the lines, I have a Ph.D. in Judaic Studies, please call me “Doctor Weiss” then it be more acceptable to the OP?

      I have a friend who is a minister and a chaplain, but I met her in a context where she was neither so I don’t defer to her titles, but I respect them when they’re being used, i.e. the Rev. Friend or the Col. Friend.

    2. Leah

      Depends on the community they come from. There are definitely Chassidic communities where getting smicha (ordained as a rabbi) is like graduating from high school and requires possibly less effort.

      1. tesyaa

        But a person who has this kind of ordination is less likely to insist on using the title in a nonreligious setting, in my experience.

      2. Observer

        While there are communities where getting smicha is the norm, the idea that it requires “less effort” than a highschool diplome tells me that you really, really don’t know much about what’s involved.

        1. Leah

          I dated an ex-Chassid who had such a smicha. All he had to do was show up regularly enough. Two of his brothers were really into it and went to yeshivot that were rigorous. He was very smart but had no such inclination, so he went somewhere else and just showed up every day. So, yeah, I actually do know.

          1. Observer

            You dated an EX-chasid, so now you know all about it. Really, truly.

            No, you don’t.

            There are schools that won’t kick you out, as long as you show up. But, they won’t give y0u Smicha – that actually requires a test in each of 4 different subject areas.

            1. Zillah

              Um, Leah didn’t say her experience was true across the board, or even what is typical. She just said that she’d seen a community where this was the case… And if she dated the guy, it seems to me likes she’s probably in a better position to speak to his situation than you are. You’re coming across to me as super condescending and aggressive, and I’m not really sure why.

              1. Observer

                What I am saying is that she doesn’t even know what actually is the case in the community her former boyfriend was from. I have no idea what the guy’s situation was – and I never pretended to. But, I’ve never been presumptuous enough claim to know how an entire community works based on the stories told by a SINGLE member of the community, especially an ex-member – who is almost certainly walking around with some fairly negative feelings about his former community. And, I would certainly never try to justify casual disrespect on that basis.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  But she didn’t say she knew how an entire community worked. She said “depends on the community they come from” and said there are some where what she described was the case. That’s pretty specific to her own experience.

                  I don’t think it advances the discussion to just tell people they’re wrong; it makes for a much more useful discussion if you can instead say “this is what my experience has been” or “this is how it usually works.”

  9. TubbyTheHut

    Call him what he wants to be called. No different than when I tell people I prefer to be called “Tubs” and not “Tubby” for example. It doesn’t affect you and extends good will and respect to your coworker. And I don’t mean respect because he’s a rabbi, but respect because this is someone you work with you and you’d like them to extend the same to you.

    1. iBex

      I agree.. what do you have to gain by refusing to address someone by his/her preferred title? If anything you would insult that person by refusing and could come off as rude to others.

    2. Robin

      Yes, this, and the responses above that liken it to using the title “Dr.” Whether or not you are the same religion isn’t really relevant.

      1. the gold digger

        I would not have a problem with calling someone “Rabbi Weiss” or “Pastor Evans” (although it would be odd and I think inappropriate in a non-religious work context but that’s not the hill I want to die on) but I would never use an honorific for a cult-ish religion or for a situation where the person has appointed himself “Pastor So and So” even though he never went to seminary and yes, I am talking to you, Joel Osteen.

    3. Oryx

      I agree. I had a co-worker with a PhD who insisted that everyone call him Dr. Lastname. It induced eye rolls from everyone, but we all did it because that’s what he requested and it’s not like it harmed me or my work in anyway.

  10. BethRA

    I think referring to colleagues by titles (Mr. What, Ms. Who) is odd, but I’m going to have to use them, I see no harm in, or reason not to, use the title a person goes by themselves. If they’re a Rabbi, I’m going to call them Rabbi What; if they have a Ph.D., I’m going to call them Dr. Who.

    Not sure if the military is entirely analogous? I was under the impression that the armed services themselves have rules and regulations about when rank titles may be used and uniforms may be worn, which may not be the case with religious institutions, etc.

    1. Diet Coke Addict

      It’s analogous in the sense that very, very few service members are going to insist on someone calling them by their rank in a non-military setting. If you’re wearing normal clothes and getting your car serviced on a Saturday and they call for “Mr. Smith” or whatever, or if you’re introducing yourself to someone you bump into at the grocery store from your wife’s work–it would be “Mr. Smith” or Johnny or whatever. They wouldn’t go around introducing themselves as “MCpl Jones” in a non-military setting.

    2. Henrietta Gondorf

      Oh yes, the military most assuredly has rules about the use of rank and acceptable forms of address. But even civilians who work in DoD are often Mr./Ms./Dr. There’s a much greater trend towards formality.

    3. Felicia

      I think it’s more analogous to someone with a PHD who is not a medical doctor wanting to be called Doctor. Sometimes a social faux pas, but happens sometimes and isn’t necessarily wrong. Because a rabbi is basically a guy with a pHD is Jewish studies.

      1. De Minimis

        I mentioned this before, but my wife worked with someone who was a Ph.D that insisted on being called Doctor, and would also use the title when making plane reservations. No big deal, until he was on a plane where a passenger had a medical emergency….the flight crew really let him have it.

        1. Gina

          Did they call for a doctor and he stood up? Because otherwise, how did he deserve to “get it?” They’re not entitled to have a medical doctor on each flight unless they have one one retainer.

          1. fposte

            I suspect they went to him because he was on the manifest as “Dr.” And it’s pretty common for people to do that in hope of better treatment in such situations, and I’m fine with them getting yelled at.

            1. Anon Accountant

              1 of my college professors would usually be offered to be moved to first class at no extra charge and he attributed it to being listed on the passenger list as “Dr. John Doe” although he was a business professor with a PhD.

            2. De Minimis

              Yes, that’s exactly what happened, he was on the passenger list as “Dr.” and they asked him to provide medical assistance, and he had to tell them he wasn’t that type of doctor.

  11. Idaho

    I’m probably going to be stirring the pot here, but I wonder if all of these same arguments would be made if he was of a different faith e.g. a pastor. Truly that was my first thought, and I am curious if anyone would change their opinions.

    1. bridget

      I would (and do) bristle when people with Christian honorifics use them in non-religious contexts. In fact, I would probably bristle more because in my geographic area, I have almost exclusively seen this from Christian denominations. Because I very rarely run into rabbis or leaders of other religions that are not prevalent in my area, I would be more forgiving because I don’t have as much cultural context to gauge whether it’s appropriate or not, so I’d be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that it’s super usual in whatever faith community they come from and I’m the one who is being ignorant.

    2. Leah

      Doesn’t change my mind on it at all. Granted, nearly all of my in-laws are rabbis and I still recall getting sternly corrected when I called a customer “ma’am” when she was actually “Reverend”. I was working in an ice cream shop and she was just buying a cone (rather than say, picking up an order for Rev. Teapot), so I’m not sure why she felt the need to scold me.

      1. Observer

        That is just rude. Was she wearing any sort of clerical garb that could have clued you in? Not that I think it would have justified her, but it might explain a bit. People who expect clairvoyance make me nuts, though. Also, it’s possible that she’s hyper-sensitive to the political implications of being a female Reverend. In many denominations this is an extremely contentious issue, as I’m sure you are aware.

      1. Biff

        Pagan clergy here. My proper title sounds pompous to me. I never use it except mockingly (at my own expense.) However, if someone at work was pagan and WANTED to recognize it, I would untwist my panties and accept that. I wouldn’t be thrilled, but I’d accept it. I’d never demand it. (Well, I did once, but my coworker was being a jerk and I used it to make a point.)

        That said, Pagan Clergy is all over the place. Sometimes you get someone that’s been pagan for two months calling themselves the High Priest of This, That and the Other Thing, Avatar of Whatever Goddess, and then you have people that have studied academically for years and can really hold their own. It’s something that the pagan community needs to work on.

        However, the Abrahamic religions all have seminaries and defined courses of study. If someone is a Rabbi or a Priest, they’ve earned it. If someone prefered to be Father Dan at work or Rabbi Joshua….I could understand and comply, because sometimes no matter what your calling, you have to have a day job!

          1. Biff

            Hmmm. The only church I know that does a priesthood of all (male) believers is the Mormon church, and they have seminary and exams and suchlike. Which ones don’t?

            1. Biater

              Oh, so many. Nearby my place is the Reformed Church of God… all congregants are entitled to use the title Pastor (although no one does), and perform the sacrements. I think someone mentioned in this thread how some churches just sell religious titles. And anyone who wants to can open up their own unaffiliated church and use whatever title he wants, much like your example of the High Priest of This, That, and the Other Thing.

    3. Joey

      Nope. I don’t care if you’re a deacon, swami, brother, minister, high priest, or mullah. The only honorific I recognize at work is Mr. or Ms.

    4. AndersonDarling

      I was also considering folks who purchase their religious titles. You could be an ordained minister for $100, then ask people to refer to you as Reverend Smith. (of course, not the same as the Rabbi in the question who earned the title)

    5. Julia

      Devout Catholic here. I would probably call a pastor ‘Father’ without realizing it. But seriously I believe that religious titles reflect a calling and not just a job or role. So I would probably go with Pastor Wakeen if introduced as such.

    6. LJL

      Unless it’s a religious organization or a not-for-profit with religious ties, I’d find Reverend Whoever to be just as unusual and uncomfortable as Rabbi Whoever. It just doesn’t fit.

    7. A Cita

      I’d think it’s silly regardless of religion. But I’d do it anyway, except for using the title “Father” because to me it implies recognizing them as an authority figure to me, which they are not (because of the vernacular use of “father” in English). Now perhaps these other religious titles mean the same thing, but I don’t know and ignorance is bliss. :) But if I found that the title did imply the person had some authority over me, I’d try to work out an alternative title to call them because I’m not too keen in passively enforcing patriarchy. And yes, I do believe that the way we naturalize some narratives and discourse does matter.

  12. Brett

    For our organization, we actually have a written rule that employees who are ordained rabbis must be called by their ordination title if that is how the employee wants to be address (applies similarly for ordained employees of other religions where appropriate). Their ID badges carry this title too. (Other titles including job titles, ranks, and academic titles are not on the ID badges.) Of course, this is relevant to our workplace because ordained employees can be called on to provide support services in disaster even if that is not their normal function.

  13. JC

    I would find it pretty weird, especially if it is out of sync with the culture where you work, which I assuming it is. Is anyone else where you work addressed by anything other than Mr. or Ms.?

    FWIW, I have a PhD and these days don’t ever ask to be addressed as Dr. in circumstances where it is not culturally appropriate. Where I work it is often culturally appropriate when we are using titles, but in sometimes it is not, and then I am Ms. (When I first got my PhD I may or may not have signed up for airline frequent flier programs using Dr. as my title).

  14. Paulina

    I think for me I would use “Rabbi” as asked… if the person was a priest or a nun and wanted to be called “Father” or “Sister” I would so that. I don’t see the difference.

    (PS I used to work in a Catholic university, staff generally called the religious members “Father FirstName” or “Sister FirstName”. I liked that – keep the honourific but it’s not too formal. Some also asked students to call them that, some preferred “Father LastName” from current students.)

      1. Lily in NYC

        Like a Chiropractor! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one who uses his last name. It’s always “Dr First Name”.

    1. Natalie

      That was pretty typical when I was young and still Catholic. All the nuns were Sister FirstName (and I think it was their real first name, not their nun name).

  15. Wilton Businessman

    It’s not like the guys wants to be called “Supreme Leader of Internet Technology”. Rabbi, Dr., Father, Mr., Mrs., Ms., Judge, etc. are all proper titles, so I don’t see the problem addressing him as Rabbi Weiss.

    On the other hand, I find it uncomfortable addressing colleagues as Mr. & Mrs. anyway, so…

    1. Helka

      I’m with you! He has specifically asked for this, it is a recognized cultural title instead of being some bizarre invention, and it doesn’t sound like it is going to do any actual harm to anyone to call him what he wants to be called.

      Frankly I’m a lot happier calling people by titles that they’ve earned for what they do (Rabbi, Dr., Reverend, Judge, etc) than I am calling someone a different title just because they got married.

    2. De Minimis

      Oh, that reminds me of a story I heard from a professor….he used to work at the CDC. As a joke, his boss made him a plaque that read “SUPREME COMMANDER” and told him it was in lieu of a raise.

      This was right when the AIDS crisis was starting up, and they kept having police officers showing up with vials of blood, asking them to test it for AIDS. One officer was at his desk, and he was trying to tell him he couldn’t test it without some kind of court order. The guy asked to use his phone, and he could hear the person on the other line yelling at him. Then they must have asked “Who are you talking to?” and the cop looked at the plaque and said with a straight face, “I’m talking to the Supreme Commander!”

  16. tesyaa

    Some readers might be surprised to learn that many Orthodox Jews refuse to refer to Reform or Conservative Jewish clergy as “Rabbi”. It’s an extreme, but still fairly common, position. Just throwing this out there; there’s no way of knowing the affiliation of the rabbi in the post.

      1. Chinook

        “especially if the Rabbi in question is female.”

        This made me stop and think – what if I met a woman priest (who do exist outside of the Catholic Church and have been ordained by an excommunicated bishop., so it is a very small subset). I don’t think, in good conscience, I could call her “Father” (or Rev. or Pastor or even “Mother” which is what nuns call their superior) because it is not something I can recognize (no matter how much I want to but that is a debate for another day). So, I could see someone who has an issue with a certain title refusing to use it and I would be okay with that as long as they used an equally respectful title (like Mr. or Ms.)

        1. fposte

          Does that mean you wouldn’t call male Episcopal priests “Father” either? If you’d do that, why would male priests of another faith receive a recognition but not female?

          1. Chinook

            Since I have never met an Episcopalian/Anglican priest who went by Father (around here, they use Rev.), I have never had this issue (I grew up with a mother who refused to let them change her title from chairman just because she was female and expected the same tuitle as the men. As a result, I would default to calling a female priest “father”). But, my first question would be if they are called “Father” or “Mother” and would absolutely recognize them regardless of gender.

            But for a woman to be called a Catholic priest and my acknowledging it by using her title puts me in schism with my Church and would make me uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have a ton of non-snarky questions for her, though.

    1. Observer

      It’s not an uncommon position. And, I totally understand it. But, I would have a far greater problem with someone refusing to call a member of the Reform or Conservative clergy Rabbi in the (secular) workplace than I would have with people refusing to use any religious honorific while using other honorifics. The latter is a social convention without real religious meaning, and therefore comes off as rude, while the former is a religious statement. A secular workplace is not the place for that kind of religious statement.

  17. Allison

    Eh, if my coworker was a Rabbi and wanted to be addressed as such, I’d do it. It wouldn’t be a question of “do I have to?” but rather a question of “is there any reason why I shouldn’t?” I’d only refrain if someone above me told me it was inappropriate. Then again, if one of my coworkers wanted to be called Stormageddon, I’d probably go along with that too until a superior put a stop to it.

  18. Apple blossom

    So, what about religious titles outside the workplace like Father for a person ordained in an Orthodox Church. Real dilemma here- I do not belong to that church but our daughters are friends. What am I expected to call this person- he introduces himself as Father followed by his ordained name.

    1. Oryx

      If that’s how he introduces himself I would take that as an indication on how he would like to be referred.

      But you could always just ask him what you should call him or even ask your daughter if you don’t feel comfortable asking him directly.

      1. Appleblossom

        Well, daughter is only 8. And I fully realize that is how he wants to be referred to but I guess, I do not want to call him that. Hence, my comment in trying to garner support on my position. I think I will simply follow the avoidance route i.e. avoid saying any name at all.

        1. Stephanie

          Why don’t you want to call him that? I guess you could call him Mr. LastName if you know it (which shouldn’t be difficult to find out as he’s an ordained minister, it should be easily google-able on the Church’s website) but if he’s introduced himself to you as Father Name then that’s clearly how he prefers to be addressed.

  19. Nerd Girl

    When I was in 5th grade I had a teacher who had a doctorate. She insisted that we call her Dr. Smith. Her argument? She’d worked really hard for that doctorate and she wanted to use the title. If someone insisted that I call him/her by the title that had been earned through years of schooling or military work than I have no problem doing that.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That argument drives me crazy. Lots of people work hard for lots of accomplishments, but don’t insist on being addressed by them — CPA Smith or Editor in Chief Jones or SVP Brown sound ridiculous, and rightly so.

        1. De Minimis

          That case is odd because although it’s at school it’s not like the doctorate is required for an elementary teacher. I do remember when I was a kid that we sometimes had principals or superintendents with doctorates, and the teachers usually referred to them as Dr.

          We had some kind of weird rule at the accounting firm that you couldn’t put the CPA designation on your business card. There was some kind of liability-related reason, probably because it was tougher to have a disclaimer regarding professional advice.

          My license is inactive, and my state requires me to put CPA [Inactive] any time I do use the CPA designation.

          1. RR

            at our elementary school, we called the principal Principal [Smith], even though I am fairly certain she had a PhD.

            1. De Minimis

              In high school I also remember a school counselor with a doctorate, everyone referred to her as “Dr.” although I think the doctorate was in education [I don’t think she was a psychologist.]

              I remember that the principal with the doctorate was the type who would insist on the title being used.

              1. Natalie

                Kenneth: Well, It’s like Dr. Laura Schlesinger says, women should be more accommodating to their men, for the health of the marriage.
                Cerie: She sounds smart. Is she really a doctor?
                Kenneth: No, I think she’s kind of like Dr. Pepper.

                (Except Dr. Laura’s degree is apparently in physiology, not education, which is why I thought of this scene in the first place)

            2. Callie

              I used to teach at an elementary school where the principal had a PhD in School Psychology and we called her Dr. Lastname. So did the students. Any district admin with a PhD or EdD got “Dr.” There were a few teachers at the high school with PhDs. The kids called them Dr. It’s an academic degree, you’re in an academic setting where the students are NOT calling any teachers, staff, or administration by first names but by Mr./Ms. Lastname, so I don’t see a problem with Dr. Lastname.

              (In the deep south, you don’t call your teachers or professors by their first name, unless it’s preschool or Sunday School or dance class and it’s Miss Firstname. But from kindergarten on through undergraduate work, it’s Mr./Ms./Dr. Lastname. For my undergrad/masters, I called my profs Dr. Lastname or Mr./Ms. Lastname–it’s very common in music for performance faculty not to have the terminal degree if they’ve had an extensive performing career. It was only after I graduated with my masters, the highest degree at that school, that they were like, “Oh, just call me Joe.” I’m on the west coast now at an R1 and it varies. Scholarly music faculty tend to go by Dr. Lastname; performance faculty tend to go by Firstname if they don’t have a PhD/DMA but will sometimes use Dr. Lastname if they do. All of us TAs go by our first names. One professor tries to get people to call his TAs Mr./Ms. Lastname but no one does because it’s just weird when the rest of us go by Firstname.)

        2. a higher ed admin

          so weirdly, this title thing happens in my academic institution with staff. We have Director Smith, Associate Vice Chancellor Wilson, and Chief of Staff Brown. as someone coming in from another sector, I’m always just “Jane” – so we’ll be on a conference call and go through the round of honorifics – President So-and-So, vice president so-and-so, executive director whatshisface, dean whatever, vice chancellor etc, and Jane.

      1. Aunt Vixen

        Okay, but in this instance it’s a professional qualification and the person holding it is using it in a professional setting. When I was in school all the teachers and administrators were called by the honorific of their highest academic rank, which included a fair smattering of PhD’s (possibly not before I was in high school, though – not that teaching high school isn’t generally thought of as slumming for a holder of a doctorate).

        Other data points: my mother has both the PhD and the JD, and was often called Dr. Vixen by people I knew socially as a kid because they knew her as a teacher from their high school (see above re: slumming ;-) ). Now, her signature file says Grandma Vixen, Ph.D., J.D., but of course she’s not Dr. Vixen Esq. socially. We did put Dr. Vixen on the inner envelope of her invitation to our wedding, mainly because Uncle Vixen’s mom also has a doctorate and *her* sister has an MD and we didn’t want to start an Incident over who got which title – so we just let everyone use them all. But that was unconventional for the sake of keeping the peace! On the outer envelopes, we didn’t use honorifics at all.

        I have a side job singing in a Catholic church choir, though I am not Catholic (or even religious) myself. All the priests at that church, I call Father Whomever because I know them only in a church-related context even though it isn’t my church. But once I asked another acquaintance of mine who happens to be a priest whether he’s called Father Firstname or Father Lastname, and he got very bristly and insisted that I call him Firstname (only). I had to explain that I didn’t mean I was going to change how I spoke to him in our completely secular mutual area of interest – just that I was curious about the first/last name conventions in his day-to-day life back at the ranch.

    2. ella

      Interesting. Now that I think about it, my teachers growing up were all Mr/Miss/Mrs, but my elementary school principal was Dr M. Which made total sense to little me because he’s a PRINCIPAL so of COURSE he must be a doctor. I…don’t remember my middle school principal at all. My high school principal was referred to me by Firstname Lastname. I’m pretty sure he also had a doctorate, but by that time in my life I was in a bit of a “no honorifics for anybody” stage.

  20. Mike C.

    So what about political positions? Is there a difference between local, state, federal and international titles? How about foreign royalty designations and knighthoods? Professional designations?

    /That’s REALTOR Mike C. to you!

    1. tesyaa

      Agree, I don’t call my local councilwoman “Councilwoman”, I call her Mary. And calling her Councilwoman in the office would be ridiculous.

      1. Mike C.

        But if Mary were on the county board, or the city council of a major large city, would you then? State legislature? Representative of your congressional district?

        I wonder, because folks who work with the President (even if they are close personal friends) will address them as “Mr/Ms. President”. I wonder what the rule is for clerks who work for judges.

        I guess what I’m getting at is where does the change happen? Is it more of an executive/judicial thing rather than a legislative thing? It’s more out of curiosity than anything else really.

        1. Cat

          Clerks who work for judges almost always just use “Judge,” no matter how formal or not formal the chambers. I’ve always found it interesting how near-universal it seems to be (at least among federal judges – I have less experience with state judges).

          1. Natalie

            I’m not sure if they were being more formal, perhaps, but this was true when I had jury duty recently (county level). The clerks all referred to the judges as Judge Suchnot.

          2. linguaignota

            I clerked for a state appellate judge several years ago, and it’s the same. We clerks ALWAYS addressed him as “Judge X.” If we were being a little less formal, we might just address him as “Judge,” e.g., “Judge, your wife is on the phone.”

        2. Lily in NYC

          I’m in NYC and when John Liu was elected Comptroller, he started making people who had worked with him for years start calling him Comptroller Liu instead of John (which is what they had been calling him). And he made them stand when he entered the room. He got so much crap for it in the press and I think he deserved every bit of the mocking he received.

        3. bridget

          I was a law clerk. My judge had us call him Judge Lastname while we were clerks, but after his clerks leave, he insists we call him by his first name unless we are appearing before him in court. Some judges explicitly direct their clerks to do that, others let them continue calling them Judge Lastname (or just “Judge.”).

          Although Judge Posner on the 7th circuit somewhat famously asks his law clerks to refer to him as “Dick” even during their clerkship to make it very clear that a big part of their job is to push back and argue with him, as having a devil’s advocate around is very helpful when making legal determinations.

    2. Mike C.

      Oh, and I’m an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church – the one that takes five minutes to fill out a free form online and you print out your own certificate.

      I fully recognize that there’s a huge difference in signing an online form attesting to the golden rule and going through religious school, ordination ceremonies and so on, so where does that fall into place? Could I make the new guy call me “Reverend” for the first week or do I actually need to go to school for that? I’ve actually married someone if that makes a difference! :P

      More seriously, this is absolutely fascinating stuff!

    3. Robin

      Actually, it’s my understanding that, at least for national positions, the convention is Senator Smith, or Congresswoman Jones, or President Roslin, at least in more formal contexts.

      1. Natalie

        And I believe it used to be standard to drop the title when the person left office, but now it seems like “Former President” is becoming a title all by itself.

        1. De Minimis

          It seems more common for former Presidents to be active in public life after leaving office. Of course, we’ve also had a fairly long stretch of time with several living former Presidents, which was not too common in decades past.

        2. fposte

          I think the sticking point is that you’re not supposed to call them “President Clinton” or “Mr. President,” because the US recognizes only one president at a given moment. “Former president” is probably loopholey enough to be okay by those rules, though really they’re supposed to revert to “Governor” or what have you.

    4. Cat

      Here’s one data point: I’ve never known a judge who isn’t, in all professional contexts, “Judge lastname” or just “Judge,” even to the people they work most closely with. (And should have read more carefully, because I posted separately about the foreign royalty designations below. I would love to see how that plays out.)

      1. tesyaa

        Harry Truman was known throughout his life, even in retirement, as “Judge Truman” by those who knew him in his days as a county commissioner (the term Judge referred to that position, not the judiciary).

      2. Julie

        When I think about it, people who are long-term judges or retired as a judge I do end up calling judge, though likely out of habit (especially since I went to court with my last job). My previous boss was a judge, then a prosecutor and I called him by his first name or his initials. I was the one sorting his mail and while he did get some Prosecutor Lastname letters, it wasn’t common. Elected officials rarely wrote to him with his title and it was about 50/50 on their mail getting addressed that way.

        Though thinking on this, someone like “Chief Lastname” was always called that, and I think the social pages publish him that way as well. My PA was never called Esq. or Prosecuting Attorney on those but I know Dr. and Chief were used. Not sure about rabbi, though I just call my Jesuit priest cousin by his first name.

    5. Chinook

      Foreign royalty designations are a bugaboo in Canada because Canadians are not allowed to hold foreign peerages. Conrad Black, (Baron Black of Crossharbour) caused a lot of stir and even renounced his Canadian citizenship so he could accept the peerage.

  21. Katie the Fed

    FWIW, on the military rank, if you’re an officer under the rank of Colonel and expect to be called your rank by civilians, you’ll look like a damned fool. But, like, David Petraeus will always be General Petraeus (ret.) to me.

    1. Ezri

      My sister graduated from basic training for the National Guard earlier this year, and we spent the next three weeks calling her as ‘Private *LastName* after we heard her drill sergeants say it. It’s just for fun, though, she never uses it in a social setting.

    2. NavyLT

      So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong (I kid… but the vast majority of civilians I’ve worked with have been either retired military or reservists, and a lot of them do call people by rank. The handful whose sole afiiliation with the military is that they work for the Department of Defense are strictly first-name only).

      1. NavyLT

        Also, I assume we’re talking about work–if people started calling me lieutenant in a social setting, I’d be kind of weirded out.

      2. Katie the Fed

        Yeah, enlisted guys always call me ma’am. I’ve been taught not to correct them because it’ll make them uncomfortable but it drives me crazy.

        1. NavyLT

          It’s ingrained pretty strongly. When I was at a joint command, I had several enlisted guys tell me how weird it was that the Air Force officers all called them by their first names, rather than Petty Officer So-and-so.

  22. apostrophina

    I’m with those who say call him what he wishes to be called. Though I’ll also admit that if I were meeting with an organization about, say, a software installation and heard someone on their team addressed as clergy, my first thought might be “My goodness, is our project going to need *that* much help?”

    Then again, I am weird.

  23. HannahS

    For what it’s worth, in my social circle all religious leaders are referred to by their title, even in conversation. So, when talking to a friend, I might ask her if Pastor Dave is performing the wedding, or another friend might ask me if I’m going to Rabbi Michael’s for dinner. Until he told me to call him by first name, my friend’s dad was called Pastor Saunders. Most of the titles either mean leader or teacher or something like that, so I don’t mind. The only ones that makes me uncomfortable is Father, Sister, Brother, etc., because, I use them in reference to my (actual) family.

  24. tesyaa

    In the Orthodox Jewish world, the default is to call someone with [Orthodox] ordination “Rabbi” unless specifically told it’s not necessary. It’s considered highly disrespectful of a scholar not to do so. The problem is that in a secular workplace, demanding religious respect is misplaced. Ms. Barksdale above gives a similar example with a non-Orthodox rabbi, so this can cross denominational lines.

  25. Leah

    This seems entirely analogous to the person who wrote in a while back about one person who insisted on being called Mrs. Noble, instead of Donna, in an office where everyone uses first names. It is more a question of office culture than religion. Yes, being called Rabbi Jack, instead of Rabbi Harkness, is a possible compromise but including the title still raises the issue.

    I have a family full of rabbis and none of them use the title socially. When one of them was working in the corporate world, he was Mickey and not Rabbi Smith despite being at a company almost entirely staffed by observant Jews. I’m not saying that the person at LW’s office shouldn’t go by Rabbi but not addressing him as such would be a personal issue and not a religious faux pas.

    1. tesyaa

      If I recall correctly, there was an update in which Mrs. Noble realized after a day or two that she felt uncomfortable being addressed differently than her peers and decided to go by “Donna”.

    2. chewbecca

      I really want to see a letter asking about a new coworker who is telling people to call him The Doctor, but he never says of what, and refuses to give out his real name.

      “He insisted we call him The Doctor. Nothing else, no explanation. He also carries around a weird cylindrical device that makes noise, and he points it at random spots and then spouts off gibberish about ‘Daleks’ and ‘Slitheen’ and then disappears for several hours. It’s affecting my ability to do my job, because I need him to finish his analysis of our systems before I can do my reports.
      While he technically abides by the dress code, he wears the same 3 suits all the time, but he pushes it by wearing Converse sneakers. That’s probably a bitch eating crackers thing, though.
      Is this legal?”

      After writing this, I realized The Doctor would be a horrible coworker.

      1. UK Nerd

        While I would never use the title on its own, I firmly believe that when talking about my sister and me, we should be refered to as ‘The Doctor and the Master’.

  26. Cat

    Okay – I have a question, not to make any kind of point, but just because I’m curious. If you have a Ms./Mr. workplace and end up hiring someone from a country that has title of nobility and landed gentry (or are in such a country), would you call a new hire for whom it applied “Lord so-and-so” and “Lady such-and-such”? Or would that be disregarded in the interests of office egalitarianism?

    1. fposte

      I’ll be intrigued to hear what Brits, et al., say, but my feeling is that you use it within the country (and if Lady Penelope has a brain in her head she’ll tell people to knock it off) but that in America you wouldn’t–and that the way hiring and introductions work in America means that you probably wouldn’t know unless Lady P. was a pain enough to make the point. (Exceptions for when you’re pulling in somebody august for figurehead reasons and want to wave titles around wildly.)

      1. Chinook

        As Canadians, we oftten host “peers of the realm” and I think we do call them by their honorary titles in official circumstances (i.e. when they are here as a representative of our monarchy) but I don’t think it would be seen as appropriate of you are working here and want to be treated as one of us.

        I think the litmus test would be what we call our former Prime Ministers. They will always be called the the title of “Right Honourable” even after they are done serving but I somehow don’t think that phrase is used in their day to day work at whatever law office or think tank they are working in. As well, our former Governor Generals do have an honourific while serving as the Queen’s representative but they loose that title, along with their security detail, as soon as the next one is sworn in (I think it was Adrienne Clarkson who said she was in the middle of a gold game when the security got the call and they wished her good day as “Ms. Clarkson” and left. Now, when she is mentioned, the title of “former governor general” is seen as part of a job description in the same way as she is also “former arts and culture journalist with the CBC.”

    2. Helka

      I would imagine in the US it would most likely be disregarded unless the person insisted on it because there’s a fairly strong anti-aristocratic tradition in the country — national culture prevailing in this case.

      1. Cat

        Thinking about it, I think that’s where I’m at – we fought a war to break off from that government; I’m willing to stand on principle about not recognizing its titles of nobility in my workplace.

        1. the gold digger

          Exactly. I will not address someone by a title of nobility. Indeed, I was annoyed when a friend who was working for the Peace Corps in Morocco said sure, she would bow to the Moroccan king if she met him and I wanted to slap Madonna for curtsying to the queen of England. We are not subjects.

          1. Helka

            I dunno, I think your friend was correct. In Morocco, she should follow Moroccan social norms for behavior. Likewise, Madonna in England should defer to English protocol. A foreign member of the nobility should expect to be treated according to American social norms when in America. They can request differently, but default to acting according to the culture of wherever you are.

            1. the gold digger

              Nope. I do not expect a non-US citizen to say the pledge of allegiance, although I would stand for someone else’s national anthem just because it would seem so rude to remain seated.

              When my Jewish friend came to my grandmother’s funeral with me (and used her own dark red lipstick to correct my grandmother’s burial makeup – what was that mortician thinking, putting Granma in pale pink?), I told her that she did not have to kneel when we did or say any of the prayers. She was in a Catholic space – by choice – but she did not have to do anything that might indicated any kind of agreement to what was being said or done.

              I understand your point about social norms, but these gestures are far weightier than social norms. They indicate agreement to and conformance with a political system that many US citizens do not accept.

              1. Helka

                I guess it depends on where the line is drawn between courtesy (standing for the national anthem, to use your example) and conformance. The times when I’ve traveled abroad, I’ve considered it incumbent on me to adapt to the local culture, instead of expecting the locals to recognize the sequence of “I’m foreign -> I don’t want to participate -> I’m not being intentionally rude, just being foreign and uncomfortable.”

                1. fposte

                  And if I’m in that country, I *am* conforming to that political system. I’m not going to insist that I get to do something because it’s legal back in the US regardless of what its legality is there.

            1. the gold digger

              I would call King Bob “King Bob” if I were in BobLand. But I am not going to call a co-worker Lady Madonna when I am in the US. I doubt I will ever be in a situation where I would be called upon to say, “How are you, Queen Elizabeth?” while she is in the US, so I am not going to worry about that one.

              I am not going to curtsy as a sign of obedience, no matter where I am.

    3. EA

      Not a workplace, but I have once attended a concert (in the US) where the main performer was introduced to the crowd by an honorary title which is not used in the US … “And now, put your hands together for Sir Elton John!”

      (It didn’t seem at all odd to me.)

    4. UK HR Bod

      I’ll try to give something of a UK perspective! I think it really depends on the context in which you meet someone. I have worked in environments which included Sirs / Dames / Lords etc. Those who were fellow employees were referred to by their first name face-to-face, casual conversation etc, with exceptions where they were given an honour because of their work – and even then you would only refer to Dame Whatsername in formal communication. I have however dealt with Lord / Lady in the course of my work, but where they were not employees and I was dealing with them in their capacity as Lord / Lady. In those cases I have used the formal title (Lord / Lady surname usually). If I were working with the Earl of Somewhere in a situation where we were both employees, I’d expect to call him Fred. If I worked for the Earl of Somewhere in his capacity as Earl, I’d expect to call him Lord Somewhere. It’s not something that would bother me – it’s just his title (albeit unearned) and no different to using doctor, father or any other title.

      In terms of people with titles outside of their usual country / context, I think it probably depends on their reason for being there. When the Queen goes somewhere, it’s as the Queen and head of state, very rarely as a private individual. If her reason for being there is as the Queen, it’s fair to treat her as such, but that only really means the correct form of address if you meet her directly. People who can be private individuals though are a different matter – although whilst Lady P would look pretty stupid if she insisted being called Lady P if she was working in another country in a private context, her hiring paperwork may well say it as it’s probably her legal title.

      1. fposte

        Yes, the “legal title” thing is another reason why it wouldn’t translate well to the US. We don’t even have spots for that on the forms!

        1. UK HR Bod

          Do you not have spots for Mr / Ms etc? It would be a replacement for that essentially. You see some great options on drop-downs here – they rarely bother with HRH, but Lord, Lady, The Hon. etc… They usually precede earned titles (Dr, Rev), then the rest of us loiter down the bottom with our bog-standard Mr / Ms.

    5. De (Germany)

      And what would they do with the Germans who have Dr as their title on their passport – regardless of whether they studied Medicine or something else?

      (I am sure other countries have that title on legal documents as well)

  27. Betsy Bobbins

    Religion in the work place, even in an honorific title, makes me uncomfortable enough that I would avoid addressig that person by name at all costs. I would have a hard time using ‘Rabbi’, but a title such as ‘Father’ would just not work for me as it alludes to an imbalanced power relationship of a parent and child. If this was a religious institution I would understand, but in a secular work place, no…just no.

  28. hayling

    I personally think it’s inappropriate for him to insist on being called Rabbi in a secular workplace, but this is not really the hill to die on.

  29. Shell

    Apparently I’ve been living under a rock or something because I didn’t know that medical doctors are conventionally referred to as Dr. even in a social setting.

    Frankly, I think it’s weird to put titles on anyone’s name outside of a professional setting or a setting where the degree is relevant. If I’m addressing my medical doctor, I’ll definitely call him Dr. Whatis. But if I meet a person out around town whose profession is a doctor? Well, I’d probably address him/her by their first name if we’re even remotely familiar, but if not, Mr./Ms./Mrs. Lastname it is. If you are not my doctor, then why do I call you Dr.? And that’s for the instance that society apparently thinks it’s appropriate. In the same vein, in an academic setting I’d definitely call a person Dr. Whatsit if he/she has their PhD in philosophy or astrophysics or whatever it is, but outside of the context where it’s relevant, it’s all Mr./Ms./Mrs. or first name/preferred name.

    And admittedly I’m biased as an atheist, but I’d be pretty uncomfortable calling anyoneRabbi or Father or what have you. Just…no. It’d feel strongly like pushing an aspect of religion on me. And if anyone really insists on their title (be it Dr. or Rabbi or whatever) outside of a context where it’s relevant, I’d just go through great lengths to avoid addressing them at all.

    1. Elysian

      “I’d just go through great lengths to avoid addressing them at all.”

      Like some people with their in-laws – I can definitely see this being what I would do, too.

  30. Helka

    Address him as he wants to be addressed. This is a really basic point of manners.

    Unless you are his boss or otherwise in a pretty direct line up the food chain from him, you don’t have the position to tell him “that’s not how we do things here” or “I believe this is inappropriate for the workplace.” It is not your call to make. That privilege belongs to his boss (or boss’s boss, or so on up). If you feel extremely uncomfortable with this, the appropriate thing to do would be to have a private talk with him and lay out why you feel it isn’t comfortable, and give him the chance to make a decision whether he’s willing to accept being called something else. But you don’t just choose different ways to refer to people without consulting them — you’re basically saying that their identity should be subordinated to your sense of comfort. Not cool.

  31. soitgoes

    If this man is working in a secular office, that means he isn’t currently working as a Rabbi. I just reread the original email, and it says that the coworker is merely ordained. I know a lot of people who have been ordained to perform weddings and whatnot but would never think of extending that title into a completely irrelevant workplace. This isn’t quite like the doctor/professor thing, unless anyone thinks it’s appropriate for a former professor to demand that he/she be called “professor” at a new office or retail job.

    Maybe the OP should get ordained over the internet and ask for his/her title to be adjusted as well.

    1. Nichole

      My partner was ordained on the internet (we’re in one of the states that recently legalized, delegalized, and later relegalized same sex marriage, and he obtained the designation to be able to perform a legal ceremony for friends quickly), and the place he went with offered up a choice of honorifics ranging from the traditional to the unusual for your certificate of ordination. Despite my urging, he declined to be Jedi Master Lastname in favor of a more humble “Mr.” Not usually his style, but the thought of bearing the same title as someone who went through formal training like Pastor or Reverend made him uncomfortable, and oddly enough, he considers Jedi to be a designation that must be earned.

      1. soitgoes

        There’s actually a bit of scholarly debate over whether Rabbis can demand to be called Rabbis. It’s a point of Jewish thought that your accomplishments should only be recognized by others. As in, you should never broach the topic of your own title, but rather wait for someone else to bring it up. It could be argued that someone who asks to be called a Rabbi isn’t a very good one.

        1. fposte

          Which neatly dovetails with traditional secular etiquette, where you don’t demand a title. I love it when these things work well together!

  32. tt

    “Address him as he wants to be addressed. This is a really basic point of manners.”

    I agree in principle, but I don’t think it’s always that clear cut. My mother-in-law wants me to address her as “mom” – but that is not happening. Ever.

      1. Nerd Girl

        I no longer talk to my in-laws but when I refer to them in conversation I refer to them as the Gatekeepers of Hell or Satan and her husband.
        After we were married they asked me to call them Mom and Dad. I refused. I told them I had one mom (no dad) and that while it was sweet that they thought of me as a daughter I would be more comfortable using their first names (which actually isn’t at all comfortable for me at all but that’s another story). They were insulted and it just added to the pile of crap building between us. Oh well!

        1. Not So NewReader

          That’s sad.

          My husband called my father by his first name. My father didn’t care what my husband called him, just as long as my husband called. Some people get it.
          Other family members not so much. Guess who got more phone calls. So it goes.

    1. Helka

      That’s true, but I do think that something like “Mom,” which is an intimate family title (where family politics, rather than social norms, prevail), is pretty different from something like this.

  33. Government Worker

    I live in Utah which has a very large community of LDS followers. Every office has a few men who are bishops in their religious settings, but it would be considered wildly inappropriate to refer to them as Bishop Smith outside of a church setting.

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      I’m LDS, and I see your point, but it’s a bit different here. The LDS church has a lay clergy– literally everyone except for the highest-ranking General Authorities have day jobs (or may be retired from them). There’s no test you have to pass or degree you have to get or vow you have to take to have the title of Bishop or President or Elder. So yes, extremely inappropriate for LDS, but a different kind of animal than Rabbi, Reverend, Father, etc.

      1. bridget

        Why? This Rabbi appears to also have a day job.

        At my Salt Lake City workplace, a couple of the higher-ups are general authorities or former mission presidents (the GAs are employed more in name-only, because their church obligations are so time-consuming). When they are in the office, they are called by their first names.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          Because “Rabbi” is an academic achievement as well as a religious title. There really isn’t a functional LDS equivalent. It’s not that the person *has* to be called Rabbi Weiss while at work, it’s more that it’s more common for such things to happen, and there’s no right or wrong answer.

          I’d expect that all but the very highest of the GAs (I’m talking the Big 15 here) go by their first names when not acting in their calling, and even they would still be called by their names by family and friends.

  34. Student

    I’m an Atheist, so I’m strongly biased.

    However, I don’t think it’s appropriate to expect people outside your religion to use your religious honorifics. Nobody is getting called Rabbi by me unless I am actually turning to them for religious advice! Same with Father, etc. I will use the honorifics if I am in their house of worship or they are performing their religious duties, out of respect. But I am not going to pretend that I believe in their religion and their religion’s hierarchy to appease them (nor go out of my way to make them uncomfortable if at all possible). Nor am I going to make an effort to remember the religious hierarchy and titles of all the different religions I interact with.

    Remember, titles are given and used as acknowledgement of a hierarchy. Rabbis are given a title to elevate them above their fellows as an authority figure, much like titles such as Dr. vs Mr. (and implicit in the distinction between Mrs. vs Ms., even if it’s no longer used that way). If I don’t acknowledge the guy has religious authority over me, then why should I give him a title that implicitly elevates him over me?

    1. Observer

      “Remember, titles are given and used as acknowledgement of a hierarchy. Rabbis are given a title to elevate them above their fellows as an authority figure,”

      Nope, totally not correct. And, in a social setting using most religious honorifics are TOTALLY not about recognizing religious authority.

      1. HM in Atlanta

        re – hierarchy: You say not totally correct, but there is a great deal correct in that statement. Both from a long-standing historical perspective and from a “defer” perspective. There’s a school of thought, heavily present in the Judeo-Christian ethic, that people should always defer to the spiritual leader. This can be problematic in non-religious settings.

        1. Observer

          That has nothing to do with what we are talking about. There is a school of thought (somewhat waning in the US, but still quite string among many doctors) that you should defer to your doctor in medical decisions, but they don’t think you should defer to your doctor in job decisions, eg, nor that you have any reason to defer to any person who happens to be a doctor. In judaism, there is a very strong school of thought that one should defer to one’s teacher whenever possible, and always show extra respect (I mean above normal courtesy). But that doesn’t extend to every teacher out there.

          The point is that while there is a strong sense of deference for one’s spiritual leader – but not for any guy who happens to be a Rabbi, Reverend or whatever else. Believe me, as an Orthodox Jew, that would be impossible for me.

    2. MissDisplaced

      Depends where you work. I’m not religious at all, but I attended and also worked at a Catholic university where many of the college deans and some of the professors were also “Father Jones.”
      Either Father Jones or Dean Jones or Dr. Jones was considered appropriate manner of address, but most preferred “Father” over their other titles.

      I think for me this would depend if the person wears the accoutrements of their religious office on a daily basis.

    3. Colette

      I don’t see the title as hierarchical or as granting them authority outside of their realm. I’m not going to defer to a PhD outside of their field, and my medical doctor is not a better judge of where I should eat lunch or what I should work on next than me.

      Having said that, let’s say someone started calling you Stu, when you prefer to be called Student, and that, when you explain that you prefer Student, they ignore your preference. How would that affect your relationship with them?

      In the OP’s office, everyone is addressing everyone else by their titles – this isn’t someone insisting on being called a title when everyone else goes by first names. Why are you a better judge of what title they should be called than they are?

      1. Anon because a touchy topic

        It can be about religious freedom, not just for the Rabbi but for everyone else. I don’t believe in religion. I don’t care if anyone else does (I’m not anti-religion). However, please don’t ask me to participate in religious rituals. This includes religious titles outside of religious events/churches. No problem with him asking, no problem with others calling him Rabbi, but big problem if he’s demanding I call him Rabbi in our shared workplace.

          1. Shell

            Given that this title is a religious one, I can’t see how you would divorce the religious association from the word. Unless the organization is a religious one (which this particular workplace doesn’t sound like), I strongly believe that religion should be separate from the workplace.

    4. fposte

      But Dr. *isn’t* farther up the hierarchy than Mr. or Ms. A lot of people, especially doctors, seem convinced that’s the reason for the difference in title usage, but it’s not. Why treat a false belief as if it carried any weight? Social interaction isn’t that strictly linear. (That’s why traditional etiquette helped people through minefields of precedence in introductions, for example, since both individuals have multiple statuses.)

    5. Not So NewReader

      Along the same vein, I have met medical doctors that I will not address as “doctor”. To me it is a title that you earn every day. If someone is unethical, I do not feel the need to use the title. (This has only happened to me twice and I have met a lot of doctors.)

  35. HR Manager

    I worked with a few PhDs, and one did insist on being referred to as Dr. xxx in communications (we were a consulting/research co.). Made my eye-roll, but whatever. On the flip side, I’ve worked with tons of PhDs, and MDs, none of whom insisted on Dr anything.

    Personally, unless the title causes problems (inappropriate, invalid, etc), I just go with it. Relationship building and working well together is so important, why get off on the wrong foot over this? Now, if others did start reading things into it (inappropriately influencing decisions, for example) then I would address it then. I wouldn’t assume the worse or get so ruffled over a title.

    1. HR Manager

      Last line of that first paragraph should read “I’ve worked with many PhDs and MDs, who did not insist on Dr anything..” Yeesh, falling into lunch coma, and not a good time to post.

  36. Not serious, but...

    Get ordained at the Universal Life Church. Insist on being called “Minister.” Watch a policy get made faster than you can turn your cheek.

    1. HR Manager

      On an unrelated tangent, my friend who is Catholic got ordained via the Universal Life Church so that she could preside over the ceremony of our atheist friend. Was a blast!

      1. chewbecca

        One of my best friends got married a couple weeks ago and their officiant was in the same position. I think she even said she looked up on how big of a sin it is. She hasn’t been smitten yet, so I think she’s in the clear.

  37. Victoria, Please

    I do think it’s inappropriate for the rabbi to insist on being called Rabbi at work. My passive aggressive response would be to start calling everyone by their actual job titles: Associate Vice President Please, Dean Manager, Director Goldstein [the rabbi], Administrative Coordinator Humperdinck… ;-)

  38. De Minimis

    Most of the churches where I grew up just stuck with “Brother” or “Sister” when referring to adults in the church. Usually people only used those terms at church, unless they were referring to the pastor or his/her spouse [our denomination was somewhat ahead of the curve as far as women being able to be pastors.]

    I know as a kid it was always a little odd seeing the pastor outside of church, sort of like when you saw a teacher at the supermarket or something.

  39. Mister Pickle

    Just my $0.02:

    I think religion should be kept out of business[1]. I don’t think that “rabbi”, “father”, “sister”, “pastor”, etc should be used in a business environment, and I think analogizing them with “Dr” or “Professor” is a red herring.

    I understand the sentiment behind “just call them what they want to be called”, but I think this logic falls apart when people have contact with customers: some customers are going to have issues working with “Father Brown” or “Rabbi White”. Even inside of the business environment, religion is irrelevant, and frankly, someone wanting to show off their religious authority in a secular business setting is at best an eye-roller (and at worst, kind of offensive).

    Coming up with a general rule for all situations may be difficult, but practically speaking, I don’t think it’s particularly difficult to figure out which titles makes sense in the context of a particular business environment.

    My background: agnostic lapsed Catholic.

    [1] I’m sure there are exceptions where it makes sense to mix them. But I strongly suspect they are a minority.

  40. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

    Hmmm. I’m very torn on this because, like Alison, I am a huge proponent of calling people what they want to be called (after 24 years of people deliberately screwing up my name and then telling me I’m oversensitive when I object… I’m kind of over it).

    However. I was raised Catholic, and I would find it really difficult to work with someone who insisted on being called Father in the office. ESPECIALLY if he was a subordinate or peer. My upbringing is a lot longer and more influential than my professional experience, and I would automatically be deferential to a Father. It would be extremely difficult for me to break out of that.

    1. Kiwi

      Ditto, and you wouldn’t find me calling a Priest of my own faith “Father” in the office, either.

      Anyone who insisted on being referred to by a religious designation in your average non-religious office would probably end up being politely called “excuse me” by most.

    2. soitgoes

      Late response, but I wonder if there could be any issues with someone asking people to call him “Father” at work. You never know what someone’s family life is like. The people who jump on board with “address people however they ask to be addressed” tend to also be sensitive to trigger warnings and the like.

  41. Vicki

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of “an office that is fairly formal, where everyone addresses each other as Mr. or Ms.” in 2014…

  42. Anx

    I think that one important aspect in the preference to use earned titles socially or casually at work is that they are more often non-gendered.

    I’m a woman and my gender identity is fairly straight forward. I prefer to be called by my first name in most cases and not by Ms. Last name. It doesn’t sound natural to me and I feel self-conscious about being a woman sometimes and I would rather not have it brought up every time someone addresses me. Some earned titles will be gendered (councilwoman, Father), but Professor and Doctor offer an alternative.

  43. De (Germany)

    Wow, all these arguments about people with non-medical doctors not getting to be called as Dr in a social setting are really weird to me. That would be completely fine where I live – I even had teachers that we called Doctor Lastname and I didn’t think that was weird. Just like a medical doctor has a “Dr med” degree, a PhD in the natural sciences has a “Dr rer nat” and an engineer can have a “Dr ing” and so on… If it’s appropriate for the one with the medical degree to get called Dr when not working as a physician then for me the same goes for the other titles. The degree can even be added to your passport equivalent when you get it and lots of people choose to do so. I get that it’s different in the US, but it’s strange seeing such a heated argument about it.

  44. Maria

    There were several threads I wanted to post to so I’m mushing my responses together.

    As a former Children’s Librarian, I still refer to myself as “Miss Maria” in certain situations and will refer to/introduce other adults the same way. :-)

    I don’t see a problem with the Rabbi wishing to be addressed that way. If I know a person is a Rabbi/Priest/Minister/Dr. I refer to them that way, even in a social context. If the office weren’t using formal names, I might feel differently but I would personally still refer to him as Rabbi Teapot Maker until told not to.

    I don’t think it’s wrong to have a religious artifact in your office, if your office allows personalized items to be displayed. I do think that Squirrel was implying that religious artifacts will spark an arguments more so than other items. Where I work, college gear sparks that rivalry more intensely than anything else.

    This sure has generated a passionate debate and I’m glad it’s been done respectfully.

  45. Jason

    I’d say that if he wants to be called Rabbi, go for it. It isn’t an offensive formality to anyone other than the most religiously sensitive or perhaps intolerant. It’s just polite to call him that. Not a big deal or inappropriate.

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