Synagogue means ‘assembly’. A synagogue is a place of worship for Jews. It is also an important centre for Jewish communities where meetings take place and social gatherings happen.
There are no images of God or people in a synagogue, as the Ten Commandments forbid making and worshipping idols.
Keep the lamps burning before the Lord (Exodus 27:20)
There are no images of God or people in a synagogue, as the second of the Ten Commandments forbids idolatry:
Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship.Exodus 20:4–5
The mikveh may be found in a synagogue and is a large bath where Jewish purification rituals take place. The water must be non-flowing and from a natural source such as a lake, sea or rain water. Jewish women are required to bathe in the mikveh before marriage. Being fully submerged in the mikveh is an important part of converting to Judaism for many Jewish communities.
Until around AD70, temple worship was a central feature of Judaism. The Jews built two temples, both of which were destroyed by their enemies. In the temples, Jews made animal sacrifices to please God. This was done on a sacrificial altar. The bimah in the synagogue reminds Jews of this.
Wherever possible, synagogues face the city of Jerusalem, where the Temple once stood. For synagogues in the UK, this means that they face east. Jews ensure they are facing Jerusalem when they are praying.
How does the aron hakodesh remind Jews of the Temple?
The aron hakodesh is the cupboard that houses the Torah scrolls. The cupboard resembles the Ark in which the stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments were kept in the Temple.