Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Synagogue

Origins of the Name:
The synagogue is the Jewish equivalent of a church. There are several different terms to describe it: “shul” which emphasises study or “temple” (used by Reform Jews)
Functions of the Synagogue:
·         A house of prayer, worship and religious services
·         A place of study and education
·         Location for religious rituals
·         May be a “town hall”
·         Synagogues achieve funds through donations and annual membership fees (not necessary for worship in the synagogue)
·         Social Welfare agency
  • Library of sacred Jewish texts
Organization Structure:
·         Are run by a board of directors
·         Manage and maintain the synagogue
·         They hire a rabbi
·         Services can be conducted without a rabbi, a lay person will take their place.
·         Rabbi provides leadership, guidance and education
·         Do not have a collection plate during service but instead collect money at weekday services which go to charity
·         Membership fees are paid annually to help the synagogue
·         Do not have to be a member to worship at the synagogue
·         Individual synagogues do not answer to any central authority
Ritual items in the Synagogue
·         Prayer services are performed in the ‘sanctuary’
·         Most important feature is the Ark, a cabinet in the wall that holds Torah scrolls
·         Also called the Aron Kodesh (holy cabinet)
·         Is placed to the front of the room, on the side in which Jerusalem is
·         Has doors and a curtain
·         Opening the door and curtain is done by a member of the congregation and is an honour
·         All people stand when it is open
·         In front of the Ark, is the Eternal Lamp, symbolizes the commandment to keep a light burning
·         Menorah (candelabrum) is also in the room
·         In the centre of the room is a pedestal called the bimah, torah scrolls are put in here so they can be read
·         Also used as a podium for services
·         Additional lectern called an amud

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