Synagogue

Eldridge Street Synagogue, New York City, USA

A synagogue (pronounced ɡ/; from Greek συναγωγή, synagogē, 'assembly', Hebrew: בית כנסת bet knesset, 'house of assembly' or בית תפילה bet tefila, "house of prayer", Yiddish: שול shul, Ladino: אסנוגה esnoga or קהל kahal) is a Jewish or Samaritan house of worship.

Synagogues have a large place for prayer (the main sanctuary) and may also have smaller rooms for study and sometimes a social hall and offices. Some have a separate room for Torah study, called the בית מדרש beth midrash, lit. "house of study".

Synagogues are consecrated spaces used for the purpose of prayer, reading of the Tanakh (the entire Hebrew Bible, including the Torah), study and assembly; however, a synagogue is not necessary for worship. Halakha holds that communal Jewish worship can be carried out wherever ten Jews (a minyan) assemble. Worship can also be carried out alone or with fewer than ten people assembled together. However, halakha considers certain prayers as communal prayers and therefore they may be recited only by a minyan. In terms of its specific ritual and liturgical functions, the synagogue does not replace the long-since destroyed Temple in Jerusalem.

In the New Testament, the word appears 56 times, mostly in the Synoptic Gospels, but also in the John 9:22; 18:20) and the Rev. 2:9; 3:9). It is used in the sense of 'assembly' in the James 2:2).

Terminology

Israelis use the Hebrew term beyt knesset "house of assembly". Ashkenazi Jews have traditionally used the Yiddish term shul (cognate with the German Schule, 'school') in everyday speech. Sephardi Jews and Romaniote Jews generally use the term kal (from the Hebrew Ḳahal, meaning "community"). Spanish Jews call the synagogue a sinagoga and Portuguese Jews call it an esnoga. Persian Jews and some Karaite Jews also use the term kenesa, which is derived from Aramaic, and some Mizrahi Jews use kenis. Some Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Jews use the word temple. The Greek word synagogue is used in English (German, French and most Romance languages) to cover the preceding possibilities.[1]