Is a synagogue a Jewish church?

Yes and no. A synagogue is not consecrated space and is not necessary for prayer, although most American synagogues proper are predominantly places of worship. There are no rules  for the layout, the architecture, or style of a synagogue.

At the same time, many synagogues contain elements reminiscent of the Temple. For instance, synagogues usually face Jerusalem. Torah scrolls are kept in the ark recalling the ark of covenant the Israelites carried in the desert, and an eternal light recalls the menorah of the temple in Jerusalem.

Synagogues emerged as places of assembly during the Second Temple Period and in particular after the destruction of the Temple as centers of Jewish life. They were study houses, and served as places of worship, and inns for itinerant student, too.  American suburban synagogues often include areas for instruction, a library, a ritual bath, a social hall as well as offices necessary for the running of the community.


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