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A synagogue (from Greek: συναγωγή transliterated synagogē, meaning "assembly"; בית כנסת beyt knesset, meaning "house of assembly"; בית תפילה beyt t'fila, meaning "house of prayer"; שול shul; אסנוגה esnoga; קהל kal) is a Jewish house of prayer. When broken down, the word could also mean "learning together" (from the Greek συν syn, together, and αγωγή agogé, learning or training).[citation needed]

Synagogue is commonly spoken of as a "Shul" by Orthodox Jews, "synagogue" by Conservative, and "Temple" by Reform. "Synagogue" is a good all-around word to cover the preceding three possibilities.[1]

Synagogues usually have a large hall for prayer (the main sanctuary), smaller rooms for study and sometimes a social hall and offices. Some have a separate room for Torah study, called the beth midrashבית מדרש ("House of Study").

Synagogues are not consecrated spaces, nor is a synagogue necessary for worship. 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. A synagogue is not in the strictest sense a temple; it does not replace the long-since destroyed Temple in Jerusalem.

In colloquial speech, Israelis use the 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 the word "temple".


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