What does the name mean?
Synagogue in Greek means a place for coming together, a meeting place, and that is what a synagogue (SIN-ah-gog) is.
What is a synagogue for?
Why aren’t there any altars?
There is no altar because for Jews there was only one place where you could sacrifice to God, and that was in the big temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. When that temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, it was rebuilt under the Persians, and used until the time of the First Jewish Revolt. When Titus crushed the First Jewish Revolt in the 70s AD, he destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Since that time, the Jews have mostly not offered sacrifices to their God.
The end of sacrifice
The First Temple
The Second Temple
Who were the Maccabees?
The First Jewish Revolt
What were the first synagogues like?
The earliest synagogues were probably just the living rooms or courtyards of people’s houses. Later on people began to build special places just to meet. Most synagogues have a rabbi, a leader, who organizes things and runs the place, and gives people advice.
Synagogues in the Islamic Empire
Many beautiful synagogues were built in the Islamic Empire. This is a picture of a very fancy one from Cordoba in southern Spain.
What do people do in a synagogue?
What is the Talmud?
What is Rosh Hashanah?
So what is Sukkot?
What is Hanukkah?
And what is Purim?
How about Passover?
Learn by doing: visit a synagogue near your house
What’s a rabbi?
More about Yom Kippur