The role of the synagogue

The synagogue is not only a place of worship, but it is a place to study the word of God. Public worship takes place here. It emphasises the idea of community as people gather to collectively worship God.

The Magen David Synagogue, New York

Key features of the synagogue:

Ark of the Covenant This is the most important part of the synagogue. In the UK it is found in the eastern wall as it is important to face Jerusalem when praying. It represents the Holy of Holies that was part of the first major temple built by King Solomon.
Ner Tamid This means ‘eternal light’ and it is always lit in the synagogue. It represents the light of the Jewish faith as the light of the nation, and the presence of the Torah in the lives of the people.
Bimah This is a platform from which the Torah is read. It is raised to allow people to look up to the Torah. It is in the centre of the synagogue for a few reasons:
  • it represents the altar in the original temple
  • it shows the spreading of the Torah from the centre of the Jewish faith to the whole world
  • it allows those present to hear the words of the Torah

The synagogue is also used for other events such as weddings and celebrations.