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The Synagogue
Worship, pilgrimage and sacred places
Worship / Synagogue
Y4 Summer 2
AT1: Practices and ways of life
FIELDS OF ENQUIRY: AT2: Identity and Belonging
AT 1 (See Local Agreed Syllabus)
AT 2
Learning outcomes
 Identify and explain the significance of the key features of the synagogue.
 Explain why the synagogue is important to the Jewish community and talk about the ways in which it is
 Describe the ways in which the Ark and the Torah is used.
 Explain the role of a rabbi in Jewish worship.
 Talk about the significance of 10 Jewish males.
 Identify and explain the significance of the clothing worn by the Jewish males.
Expectations – levels of attainment (See Local Agreed Syllabus)
Nearly all can:- (LEVEL 2)
Many can:- (LEVEL 2/3)
Some children have progressed further and can:- (LEVEL 3)
Communication / Expression
Enquiry / Investigation
Key attitudes and values
 Respect /Sensitivity for all
 Open mindedness
 Appreciation, Awe and Wonder
Opportunities for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
(See Local Agreed Syllabus)
 Consider the 3 aspects/uses of a synagogue and importance of having a centre for the community.
 The importance of tradition in Judaism.
 Reflect on some Jewish folk songs and their importance in the community.
 Consider the 4th commandment– how is this reflected within a synagogue.
 Compare this with the art in a Roman Catholic/Anglican church.
Every child matters
Being Healthy
Enjoy and Achieve
Making a Positive Contribution
Staying Safe
Economic Well being
Cross curricular links
Prior learning.
Year 3: Sukkot
Moses and the Exodus
The Passover
Marriage in Christianity and Judaism
Year 4: Abraham
Social cohesion
Meet with members of the local
Jewish community to explore what
the synagogue /shul means for
Find out about how other Jewish
Communities use the shul
Key vocabulary
Orthodox / reform
Torah scrolls/Sefer Torah
Bar / bat mitzvah
Minyan – number neededfor religious service
House of Assembly or meeting – Beit Haknesset
A House of Prayer – Beit T’filah
A House of Study – Beit Midrash
The shacharit – morning prayer
The minchah - afternoon prayer
The arvit – evening prayer.
Kippah - Head coverings
Talits - prayer shawls
Key questions for enquiry
Possible teaching activities
Think about an assembly that you have been to in school. Was it an act of worship?
What is the difference between worship and assembly? How would you turn an assembly into worship?
Discuss what elements are required to make something worship.
Now look at the pictures below. Can you say/ find out what they are and how they are used?
In the days of Jesus Jews did not worship in a Church. They used to worship in a place called a Synagogue
Read St Mark Chapter 1 vs 21. It tells how Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum
"They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach."
(Mark 1vs 21).
The picture below shows the ruins of this special place. Jesus was a devout Jew and worshipped regularly in a
synagogue. Synagogues were the local places of worship when travelling to Jerusalem to the Temple was
In England they are often called shul. Synagogues have three main functions:
They are a House of Assembly or meeting – Beit Haknesset
A House of Prayer – Beit T’filah
A House of Study – Beit Midrash.
As St Mark’s Gospel says Jesus went into the Synagogue to teach because it was a House of Study.
Synagogues do not have an altar they have what is called an ‘Ark’ ( Aron Kodesh )
The Ark is a cupboard in which the Torah scrolls are kept. It is fixed to the East wall which faces Jerusalem.
If you look closely at picture 1 you will see a curtain which hangs in the front of the Ark and a lamp hanging in
front of the curtain. It is called the Ner Tamid (everlasting Light) Most modern synagogues use an electric light
but they used to be filled with oil. This instruction is found in Exodus27 v20-21 and symbolises God’s
Presence. Just like the light above which is sometimes found in a Christian Church.
The first Ark was thought to be a wooden box which contained the tablets of stone containing the 10
commandments. (See Raiders of the Lost Ark).
Now look closely at the picture above and you can see the Torah scrolls in an open Ark.
The Torah scrolls (Sefer Torah) are the Five Books of Moses – The first five books of the Hebrew Bible. They
are written on parchment from a kosher animal. They are the Holiest objects in a Synagogue and the average
length is 60 metres long.
The Torah is divided into 54 portions. These are read on a weekly cycle throughout the year at the Bimah. This
is usually found in the middle of the synagogue. If you look carefully you can see the Bimah or platform in
In Orthodox synagogues, prayers are said in Hebrew and read by men but in some synagogues prayers are said
in English and Hebrew. Most services and all Torah readings require 10 Jewish men over the age of 13 to be
present. This is called the Minyan or required number).
In a progressive synagogue men and women are called up to the Bimah to read a portion and recite blessings.
The picture below shows the Sefer Torah. The open scroll written in Hebrew.
In an Orthodox Synagogue any competent Jewish male may act as a prayer leader. In progressive synagogues
women sometimes also take this role.
A rabbi is a Jewish teacher who helps people understand the scriptures and Jewish teaching. He is not a priest.
Synagogues vary in size, shape and denomination. In an Orthodox Synagogue women and men / boys and girls
sit separately. If you look closely at photo 1 you will see the gallery where the women and girls sit. It looks
down upon the main floor. In early synagogues men and women sat together but it was thought that the women
distracted the men from prayer.
Synagogues have always been community centres. There are usually rooms which are used as classrooms and
rooms for other community activities.
Jews believe that a person can pray to God whenever or wherever they wish however there are set forms of
prayer which take place each day in the synagogue:
The shacharit – morning prayer
The minchah - afternoon prayer
The arvit – evening prayer.
This tradition comes from the Torah.
Abraham prayed in the morning to set aside time for God before his own work.
Isaac prayed in the afternoon stopping to remember God during the day and Jacob prayed in the evening to
thank God for getting him safely through the day.
Discuss this idea. What do you think is the best time to offer prayers?
The most important prayer in Judaism is the ‘Shema’ Deuteronomy 6 vs 4-9, 11, 13-21 and Numbers 15 vs 37 –
41.Listen to the link below
Head coverings (Kippah) and Talits (prayer shawls) are usually worn in synagogues. Although a talit is usually
worn from the time of Barmitzvah (when a male Jewish boy is 13) traditions vary. Sometimes tephilah are also
Find out about the symbolism of the kippah, talit and tephilin. They are all special objects for Jews.
Talk to a local Rabbi and find out what services take place in your nearest synagogue.
Assessment opportunity
Imagine you are a Jewish child. Design a guidebook to your synagogue explaining the significance of the
objects and how the synagogue is used for prayer and worship.
Fiddler on the Roof
Examining Religion—A Forta—Judaism—Heinemann
Judaism: A pictorial guide—CEM
Judaism for Today: Angela Wood OUP
Judaism—Clive Lawton—Longman
Jewish Artefacts
Believe it or not (video) - Judaism
A class visits to a synagogue
Special clothes are worn by Jewish men—The Kippah/Yamulka
The Tallit—The prayer shawl