Synagogue comes from a Greek word meaning ‘assembly’. A synagogue is a Jewish place of communal worship. It is also a place to learn about the Jewish faith, and is often used as a community centre.
Keep the lamps burning before the Lord (Exodus 27:21).
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
Worship in the synagogue includes both daily services and the celebration of religious festivals. Rituals associated with particular rites of passage are also performed in the synagogue. Many Jews believe that it is good to bring the community together to pray, and there must be a minimum of ten people present for certain prayers to be said. This is called a minyan.
In Orthodox Jewish synagogues, men and women sit separately, while Reform Jews of different genders sit together to worship.
In most Orthodox synagogues, only men can be counted in the minyan, whereas in Reform synagogues women are included, too.
Orthodox Jews refer to a synagogue as ‘shul’, which means school, and Reform Jews sometimes refer to the synagogue as a ‘temple’.
The synagogue is an important centre for Jewish communities where meetings take place and social gatherings happen.
It is a place of education with classes where people can learn Hebrew. Synagogues often hold charity events and have various activities for young people, such as youth clubs.
Why are there no images of God or people in synagogues?
This is because in the Ten Commandments, it is forbidden to make idols or worship in front of them.