1. The House of Prayer

There are over 400 synagogues in the UK and they come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. They range from small - just a room in a house - to large imposing buildings. In all of them, you'll have a sense that people really participate in services and that the place is special. But they are not considered holy in the same way churches are.

The word "synagogue" comes from the Greek word for gathering together, and it can be a meeting place, a house of learning, and a house of prayer, so how people behave depends on what's happening there. You might see little children running around while people are being very solemn during the services. We like people to feel at home there as well as being respectful. Please do go and share the experience.

2. Follow the rules

The rules and traditions differ quite widely in different synagogues so it's best to try to follow your neighbour.

Cover your head

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Cover your head

Men usually wear a skull cap (kippah). In Orthodox synagogues, married women wear head coverings and in Reform or Liberal synagogues, some women wear a kippah.

Read the prayer book

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Read the prayer book

The congregation recites prayers led by a "cantor" (prayer leader) or a rabbi. Hebrew prayers often have English transliterations to make them easier to follow.

Men and women may sit apart

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Men and women may sit apart

In Orthodox synagogues, men and women sit separately in order to focus on prayer. However, in Reform and Liberal synagogues, everyone sits together.

3. INTERACTIVE: Understanding the synagogue

There is no set blueprint for the synagogue. Each feature has a special religious significance.

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4. What are the most important Jewish festivals?

Many Jews visit the synagogue during religious festivals. The dates shift slightly depending on the year as the Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle.

Rosh Hashanah

September/October

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Rosh Hashanah

The New Year

This two-day festival celebrates the beginning of the Jewish year. The New Year is welcomed by the sounding of the shofar (a musical horn) in the synagogue.

Yom Kippur

September/October

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Yom Kippur

The Day of Atonement

This is the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar and means "Day of Atonement". This is a strict fast day when people don't eat, drink, smoke or have sex.

Hanukkah

November/December

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Hanukkah

The Festival of Lights

This eight-day festival celebrates the recapturing of the Temple in the 2nd Century BCE. In the synagogue, one candle of the menorah is lit each day.

Pesach

March/April

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Pesach

Passover

This eight-day festival remembers the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt after years of slavery. Passover begins with a special meal with family and friends at home.