A synagogue (from Greek: συναγωγή transliterated synagogē, meaning "assembly") is a Jewish or Samaritan house of prayer.
Synagogues have a large hall for prayer (the main sanctuary) with an Ark holding Torah scrolls, and can also have smaller rooms for study and sometimes a social hall for occasions as well as offices for bookkeeping. Some have a separate room for Torah study, called the beit midrash (Sfard) "beis midrash (Ashkenaz)—בית מדרש ("House of Study").
Synagogues are consecrated spaces intended for the purpose of prayer; however, a synagogue is not necessary for worship. Communal Jewish worship can be carried out wherever ten Jews (a minyan) assemble. Worship can also be carried out alone or with fewer than ten people assembled together. However, there are certain prayers that are communal prayers and therefore can be recited only by a minyan. Except in Reform Judaism, a synagogue is not viewed as replacing the long-since destroyed Temple in Jerusalem.
Israelis use the Hebrew term bet knesset (assembly house). Jews of Ashkenazi descent have traditionally used the Yiddish term "shul" (cognate with the German Schule, school) in everyday speech. Spanish and Portuguese Jews call the synagogue an esnoga. Persian Jews and Karaite Jews use the term kenesa, which is derived from Aramaic, and some Arabic-speaking Jews use knis. Some Reform and Conservative Jews use temple. The Greek word synagogue is a good all-around term, used in English (and German and French), to cover the preceding possibilities.
Synagogues often take on a broader role in modern Jewish communities and may include additional facilities such as a catering hall, kosher kitchen, religious school, library, day care center and a smaller chapel for daily services.
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