Jerusalem is the center of Jewish theology – and home to some of the world’s most beautiful and influential synagogues. This article offers you 5 must see synagogues for all visitors while visiting our beautiful city.
The Belz Synagogue
In the 1980s, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the fifth Belzer Rebbe, led the campaign for the huge synagogue to be established in the Kiryat Belz neighborhood of Jerusalem. The structure, designed with four entrances easy to get to from each of the four streets of the hilltop neighborhood, would be an enlarged scale replica of the structure that the first Belzer Rebbe, the Sar Shalom, built in the municipality of Belz, Poland in 1843. The original building was destroyed by Nazis in 1940. Most od the Belz community was murdered during WWII. The surviving members found themselves in Israel or other major Jewish centers around the world – London, Antwerp, New York and Montreal. This magnificent building includes a wonderful main sanctuary that can hold up to 8000 worshipers during high holiday, two smaller study rooms, wedding and bar mitzvah halls, libraries, and other public facilities. A must see prayer house for those visiting Jerusalem.
The Main Synagogue, Bet Cerem
Mordechai Ben Hurin is the architect in charge of this unique building located in one of Jerusalem’s most prestigious neighborhood. The special design for this sacred place includes a large dome, reminiscent of the tomb of Rachel. The dome is covered in mosaic marble and holds both the men’s section and the separate women’s section. Due to building restrictions a second women’s section was added to the building, unlike the original plans. The four story building uses the 2 top floors for prayer rooms and the two bottom floors as lecture rooms, library and Bet Midrash. The lower floor also hosts children’s kindergartens.
The Great Synagogue Jerusalem
When you enter The Great Synagogue you will probably be captivated by the building’s architectural glory and the incredible stained-glass windows crafted by Regina Heim of Switzerland, located above the Aron Kodesh, The Glass windows depict Biblical themes and verses. Alexander Friedman created the stained-glass windows on the sides of the men’s and women’s sections that depict themes of Shabbat, holidays and Biblical events. Before entering the sanctuary, visitors can be inspired by an exhibit on permanent display in the lobby foyer: The Jacob, Z”L, and Dr. Belle Rosenbaum Mezuzah collection, featuring hundreds of remarkable historic and modern Mezuzot – one of the largest collections in the world of Jewish art. The Main Synagogue seats 850 men and 550 women and is acoustically contrived to maximize sound capacity. When viewing The Bima and the area leading to the Aron Kodesh one sees the shape of a grand Menorah. Highlighting the sanctuary is a dazzling chandelier weighing more than three tons.
This synagogue isn’t as extravagant as some of the others on this list but is quite unique non the less. The main hall can host 300 men and 100 women, and it is architecturally designed to resemble the tupe of houses the Syrian Jews used to live in prior to their arrival in Israel. The two story building is a small venue when compared to the others mentioned in this list, but is a good example of good taste and a cherished memory.
The Italian Synagogue – The Museum of Jewish-Italian Heritage
this Synagogue is a house of worship with many ties to the rich history of the Italian Jewish community. Services are conducted in Hebrew and Italian, and the enchanting melodies are heard perfectly through the synagogue’s superb architecture.
Many parts of the synagogue were brought to Israel from the Italian town of Conegliano in 1952 when the Jewish community was looking to find a solution to the local authority intentions to destroy the synagogue. Right next door to the synagogue is the museum that hosts exhibitions and art documents of Jewish history in Italy – these date back as far as the 15th century.