A ‘synagogue’ is a Jewish place for worship in Palo Alto, just as we have temples and churches for religious gatherings. The word ‘synagogue’ has a Greek root, meaning, ‘to come together’. The word also explains the power of collective prayers under one roof. In other words, a ‘synagogue’ is a house of assembly for the Jewish community.
Historically, synagogues came into existence as part of retaliation to the Romans for the destruction caused by them to the Jewish community. Dating as far back to 586 BC, the temple used to be the most important institution in the Jewish religion, where all the Jews would gather to read from their scriptures. However, they were deprived of the privilege to worship in temples that were eventually destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Architecturally, all synagogues in Palo Alto face towards Jerusalem. This symbolizes their wish to someday return to Jerusalem from where they were exiled.
A synagogue has a very basic exterior. The interior has more care taken into it. There is usually a raised platform situated in the middle, from where all the prayers are read out. Men and women are required to sit separately, for they believe that proximal sitting may turn the focus away from God and prayers. While there are seats on the ground for men, there is a gallery above for women.
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