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A synagogue will look like any other building from the outside -

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Monday 18th March 2002 / Jonathan Hayes / 10T Re Coursework - part one A synagogue will look like any other building from the outside - the only sign you might get from the outside is the star of David which is called magen David in the Hebrew tongue. There may also be a sign outside stating the name of the synagogue. There are many names for a synagogue such as; shul - which means school in Hebrew, bet haknesset, which means house of assembly - this is only used by Sephardim, which is oriental Jews. A synagogue is primarily a place of worship but also functions as a community centre for the Jews. The building is so important that the whole Jewish community that worship there will revolve around the building. It is used as a teaching school for Jewish children where they will be taught the Hebrew alphabet, numbers of Hebrew and about their faith. This school is a Jewish equivalent to a Christian 'Sunday school.' If you now go inside you would see that the synagogue is rectangular and although you will not realise it, but the whole synagogue is built facing Israel, if possible, Jerusalem. There will be a sink where the congregation will wash their hands and feet before praying or worshipping. You will also notice that there are separate seats. This is because in orthodox synagogues, the men sit on the ground floor and worship and the women sit in the gallery. ...read more.


If it is the Sabbath they will arrive on foot, as you are not allowed to drive on the Sabbath. People will be wearing their best clothes - probably suits for men and nice clothes for women. Although you will not notice it, but they will not be carrying anything in their pockets or have any hand luggage. The service will now start. As I have already mentioned the rabbi is the spiritual leader of the synagogue but there will also be a cantor or chazan present - the man who will lead the Jews in song and prayer - these will both be men in an orthodox synagogue as will the rabbi be. You will also notice that there are no pictures of humans on the walls as they are forbidden and the walls will most likely be a plain colour like white for example. The men will also be wearing kippahs - a kind of hat, which stands them out as one of god's people and also worn to show respect for god. The males of he congregation will wear the tallit. The tallit is a prayer shawl with six hundred and thirteen tassels to remind the wearer of the six hundred and thirteen laws found in the torah. As I have already mentioned, the ark is the sacred cupboard or alcove in the synagogue. It is the most important place because it contains the torah scrolls which is the Jewish bible. ...read more.


In conclusion, I know that this synagogue is an orthodox synagogue and not a reformed or liberal synagogue because, the bimah is at the centre of the synagogue symbolising that god and his words found in the torah should be held at the centre of people's lives. Also, the men and women sit separately and the women aren't taking a leading role in the actual worship itself. There would also never be a female rabbi conducting a service at an orthodox synagogue. The services coincidentally, are in about 70% Hebrew in an orthodox synagogue, which is much higher than the percentage of Hebrew, used in reform or liberal services. There is also no music played and the hymns and songs are sung without the aid or backup of music. In a liberal or reformed synagogue however things would be very different, for instance, there is quite a large chance that a female rabbi would be conducting the service, the man and women are more 'equal' they sit together and worship together as one big mass. The bimah may be at the front which, in my opinion, gives a sense of preaching and I think Jews know their religion, they don't need to be educated about it they just want to worship god. There also may be an organ to accompany songs and hymns because music is permitted in reformed synagogues. There would also be slightly less Hebrew spoken. So this synagogue I have described to you is an orthodox synagogue. Orthodox translates to "right belief" and is considered to be traditional Judaism. ...read more.

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