word ‘synagogue’ comes from the Greek word for assembly, it is where Jews
met to pray, worship and study. The synagogue is also called Beirt Haknesset
(House of Assembly), Berit Hamidrash (House of Study), Beirt Teffial
(House of Prayer) and Beit Ha’am (House of the People). We do not know
when the synagogue first came to be, however most scholars believe it started in
Babylon. It is evident, however, that synagogues were well established by the
time of Jesus.
come in many different designs, traditional or modern, large or small, however
whatever their design there are certain features that make them a synagogue.
There is the Ner Tamid or the Everlasting Light that hangs over the Aron
Hakodesh (the Holy Ark) to represent God’s eternal presence. A raised
platform know as the Bimah or Almemar where the Ark is place and
in some cases also where the rabbi delivers his sermon.
visiting a Synagogue males are expected to wear a hat or skull cap and at some
synagogues the females are expected to sit upstairs away from the males. You
would be given a prayerbook that contains English translations of all the
prayers and at various points during the service you will be required to stand.
In some synagogues the congregation may talk during the service, this is because
Jew maintain that they are at ‘home’ in a synagogue and it is unlikely that
you remain silent at home.