GABBAI (lit. "receiver"):
Tax-collector; in modern usage, treasurer of a synagogue. In Talmudic times the alms of the congregation appear to have been collected by two persons (B. B. 8b), but the term "gabbai" seems to have been restricted to publicans or tax-gatherers. A pious man who became gabbai or tax-gatherer was expelled from the company of other students of the Law (Yer. Dem. ii. 23a). According to E. Hatch ("Organization of the Christian Church," Oxford, 1888), the office of bishop in the Christian Church was derived from the treasurer of the synagogue, whose duties are now performed by the person known as "gabbai." Certain persons in the Middle Ages adopted the term as a surname, as Azan del Gabay at Tudela (1367; Jacobs, "Sources," p. 90), and Abraham Gabbai at Bristol (1194; idem, "Jews of Angevin England," pp. 347, 371).
In more recent times the chief function of the gabbai among the Sephardim was to apportion the Finta among the seat-holders of a congregation.