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Visiting a synagogue

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Ireland
posts: 585
reviews: 44
Visiting a synagogue

I am visiting Jerusalem early the next April with my 13 year old son and would like to visit a synagogue for educational purposes. We are not Jewish/religious but my son will have completed the Judaism part of his religious study curriculum at school. Really would like just to have a good look around, i.e. architecture, sacred elements, etc. Would the Great Synagogue be a good option for such a visit? Any other suitable synagogues in central Jerusalem? Please forgive my ignorance but, as a female, will I be restricted to the women-only area outside of the service hours?

Would be grateful for any advice.

Larissa

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jerusalem, Galilee, Tel Aviv
posts: 4,463
reviews: 81
1. Re: Visiting a synagogue

There are many options here. Visiting a synagogue during services would not be great because the services are in Hebrew and it would indeed be boring for a 13 year old to sit through without knowing what was going on.

I would suggest you do a tour of the Hurva Synagogue in the Old City. The tour is terrific, the guides are fun and interactive even for young teens.

The Western Wall is also a synagogue and you can see it together from the plaza and he could go put a note in the Wall. You don't need to be Jewish to do that, even the Pope did. If you visit on a Friday evening, you will see the Yeshiva boys coming down, singing and dancing and the excitement of the approaching Shabbat. On Monday or Thursday mornings, you might see a Bar Mitzvah taking place.

You can also visit the 4 Sephardi Synagogues in the Old City which are open for tourists.

The Italian Synagogue on Hillel Street is open for visits. I think it has services only on Shabbat and the rest of the time it is open to the public for a small fee. It has a lovely little museum with it that displays artifacts of the season so in April it will probably be displaying Passover items.

I would recommend the Hurva tour which has an interesting history and you will also get to go up on the catwalk around the dome for some beautiful views of the city.

Tel-Aviv
Destination Expert
for Tel Aviv
posts: 6,092
reviews: 9
2. Re: Visiting a synagogue

You could also try one of the Conservative (Masorati) congregations in Jerusalem. Men and women sit together and most of them have a large Anglo membership that can assist you:

masorti.org/congregations/Masorti_Kehillot_J…

Edited: 12:16 pm, August 29, 2012
Ireland
posts: 585
reviews: 44
3. Re: Visiting a synagogue

Thank you for your helpful responses. Great suggestions. The Western Wall is definitely on the list, both on Shabbat and at other times. Hurva Synagogue was my initial first option - sounds like a very interesting history and the building, just wasn't sure if the tour was suitable for a young non-Jewish teen who has never set a foot inside a synagogue.

Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
posts: 9,630
reviews: 68
4. Re: Visiting a synagogue

The Hurva tour may be a bit overwhelming for your teen, however it is probably the only synagogue where you will have a guided tour. The Great Synagogue is also a good option but there is no guide and you will need to do some preparation in advance to understand the various aspects.

Chana

Israel

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jerusalem, Galilee, Tel Aviv
posts: 4,463
reviews: 81
5. Re: Visiting a synagogue

The tour I took last week at the Hurva was directed to both Jews and non-Jews (of which there were quite a few) and the guide was excellent at explaining everything and making sure people were following.

Jerusalem
Destination Expert
for Israel
posts: 5,809
6. Re: Visiting a synagogue

Note that you can't take photos inside a synagogue or at the Western Wall on Shabbat (the Sabbath). This includes Friday evening. Synagogues won't be open for tours then, but if you're thinking of trying a service... You don't need to stay the whole time. Even regular congregants arrive late, leave early, and wander about chatting to their friends! If you're used to formal church services, you might find this rather strange. There's nothing wrong with entering after the service has started, sitting for 10 minutes or so, and then leaving, if you feel you've had enough! As already said, the services will be in Hebrew whatever the denomination.

At the risk of stating the obvious, you need to dress appropriately. Your son must wear some kind of head covering (even a baseball cap will do). For women, shoulders (at least) covered. When services are not taking place, women can go into any part of the building that is open to the public.

Ireland
posts: 585
reviews: 44
7. Re: Visiting a synagogue

Shuffaluff - thank you for reminding of the Shabbat rules - we are fully aware of and determined to follow those and planning on buying a proper kippah too! I wasn't clear on whether I could beyond the area that is women only during services. Thank you for clarifying that too!

I would love to attend a service but since we would have to be separated, this idea would not go down well with my son.

Jerusalem
Destination Expert
for Israel
posts: 5,809
8. Re: Visiting a synagogue

You won't be separated in a Conservative (Masorti) or Reform synagogue. There are not many of these, but there is one in Agron Street in central Jerusalem. See the website here:

http://www.uscj.org.il/moreshetYisrael.php

Translation of "Kabbalat Shabbat" - this means Friday evening, around half an hour after Shabbat starts, and you can see what time Shabbat starts by looking on the front page of the Jerusalem Post newspaper on the same day (it varies throughout the year depending on the time of sunset). Shacharit is morning service. A D'var Torah is a lecture based on the weekly Torah reading.

You'll be able to sit together there, and you'll find plenty of native English speakers in the congregation who'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jerusalem, Galilee, Tel Aviv
posts: 4,463
reviews: 81
9. Re: Visiting a synagogue

For a Kabbalat Shabbat service, another option is Kol Haneshama which at the end of Emek Rafaim Street. It is Reform and you can sit together. The service will be in song. Unlike Orthodox synagogues you don't usually see people walking in and out or chatting during the services.

If you have questions, you could ask either before the service starts or at the end, not during the services. At Conservative and Reform synagogues you can usually get prayerbooks that have English translations.

The Kabbalat service at Kol Haneshama is 75 minutes long. The start time is posted on their website.

If you want to attend a service, the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service would be easier and shorter for your son than the Saturday morning service which includes the Torah reading.

Singapore
posts: 432
reviews: 152
10. Re: Visiting a synagogue

Israel Museum has a gallery all about Synagogue, there were 4 reconstructed synagogues inside, aside from it there are several artefacts on display like Torah casings, jewish traditional clothes, etc. the best part is there are scheduled free guided tours for it, so your son can ask any questions he have.