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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 9.10:
What functions does a synagogue serve?


Synagogues typically serve in three different capacities:

  1. Beit tefilah, a house of prayer. Synagogues serve as a 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 quorum of 10 adult men), and tradition teaches that there is more merit to praying with a group than there is in praying alone. The sanctity of the synagogue for this purpose is second only to The Temple. In fact, in rabbinical literature, the synagogue is sometimes referred to as the "little Temple."

  2. Beit midrash, a house of study. Jewish education does not end at the age of bar mitzvah; the study of Judaism and sacred texts is a life-long task. Synagogues offer education to both children and adults and often have a well-stocked library.

  3. Beit knesset, a house of assembly. Synagogues often have a social hall for religious and non-religious activities. The synagogue provides a place where matters of importance to the community can be discussed, and social action concerns can be aired. Synagogues often provide social welfare functions, collecting and dispensing money and other items for the aid of the poor and needy within the community.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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