Jewish Synagogues: a House of Assembly, House of Study, and House of Prayer

Jewish Synagogues: a House of Assembly, House of Study, and House of Prayer

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Jewish Synagogues: a House of Assembly, House of Study, and House of Prayer

The Jewish people refer to the synagogue in five different terms.
These are: Beit k'nesset which means the house of assembly as the
synagogue often holds social events, Bet Midrash which refers to the
academic role that the synagogue plays in a Jewish persons life. At
the synagogue a Jewish person must also be educated about the Jewish
history and Hebrew because of this, the synagogue is also sometimes
called Shul which means school. The Beit Tefilah is the house of
Prayer because that is the synagogues main role. Lastly the synagogue
is called the temple to some people. This is because is reminds them
of the two temples destroyed by the Romans and the Babylonians.

In Judaism Bet Midrash is the academic role that the synagogue plays
in the life of a Jewish person. It is a place of study, discussion and
in ancient times a school of higher learning. The Bet Midrash is one
of the most important roles in a Jewish persons life. This is very
important part of Jewish religion. Judaism is a religion based on the
Mitzvoth. If these are not maintained the religion will die out.
Contrary to popular belief, Jewish education does not end at the age
of bar mitzvah. For an observant Jew, the study of the Torah and other
religious texts is a life-long task. Therefore, a synagogue normally
has a well-stocked library of sacred Jewish texts for members of the
community to study. It is also the place where children receive their
basic religious education. 'Gan Etz Chayim' is a parent and toddler
group that the synagogue provides for young children. Here they get
told many stories from the Torah. Then there is 'Cheder' which is a
religious school for children aged 4-16. At 13 children are given
there bar/bat mitzvah ceremony. This is where the children become
adults. The education will continue with the 'Kabbalat Torah' this
means the conformation. This usually happens when a person is 15 or 16

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years old. There are 'crash courses' in Hebrew for older people who
want to brush up on their Hebrew reading, Jewish themes or join a
spiritual group. Also once a month, in the Northwood synagogue, a
Rabbi will hold a study session which is called Torah breakfast. The
synagogue will also organize overseas trip to Jewish places of
interest.

The Bet K'nesset (house of assembly) refers to the social role that
the synagogue plays in a Jewish community as well as the role it plays
in the life of a single Jewish person. The Jewish community as often
very close because they were considered 'alien' when they were
dispersed first by the Romans and then by the Babylonians and also the
book of Genesis claims that when God and Abraham made the covenant
relationship God promised that Abraham 'would be the father of a great
nation.' This means that the Jewish people are one big family. Every
person in the Jewish community helps each other either through the
giving of money or by giving of money this is called 'tzenaka'. Some
of the synagogues, like the synagogue in Northwood for instance, will
have a number of community events these include: Mother and child
toddler groups, scouts, Guides and Bedtime stories in the Shul. The
Northwood synagogue also holds a Jewish Christian dialogue meeting
where people from not only different synagogues but different faiths
can mix and bring their ideas together. They hold drop in coffee
mornings so that no-one feels compelled to come everyday. The
synagogue holds golf and bridge evenings as well as cricket matches,
quiz evenings and dances. This shows that the synagogue will remind a
person that they have a duty to help and be part of their community at
every stage of their lives. For example if a person was unemployed
then the synagogue would train that person to help in and around the
synagogue. Jewish people are encouraged to help others by cooking food
for those who are temporarily unable to look after themselves. Most
synagogues also have a social hall for religious and non-religious
activities. The synagogue often functions as a sort of town hall where
matters of importance to the community can be discussed. In addition,
the synagogue functions as a social welfare agency, collecting and
dispensing money and other items for the aid of the poor and needy
within the community.

bet tefilla ("house of prayer") It is the place where Jews come
together for community prayer services. Jews can satisfy the
obligations of daily prayer by praying anywhere; however, there are
certain prayers that can only be said in the presence of a minyan (a
group of 10 adult men), and tradition teaches that there is more merit
to praying with a group than there is in praying alone. In fact, in
rabbinical literature, the synagogue is sometimes referred to as the
"little Temple."

The Orthodox and Chasidim typically use the word "shul," which is
Yiddish. The word is derived from a German word meaning "school," and
emphasizes the synagogue's role as a place of study.

Reform Jews use the word "temple," because they consider every one of
their meeting places to be equivalent to, or a replacement for, The
Temple. The use of the word "temple" to describe modern houses of
prayer offends some traditional Jews, because it trivializes the
importance of The Temple. The word "shul," on the other hand, is
unfamiliar to many modern Jews. When in doubt, the word "synagogue" is
the best bet, because everyone knows what it means.
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