Synagogues- Origins and History


       Outside of Solomonís Temple, there is probably no more important institution in Judaism than the synagogue.  The word comes from the Greek synagein, to bring together.  A Greek word rather than Hebrew results from the fact that the Hebrew Bible lacks a word for it.  The actual origin of the synagogue is lost in history.  The consensus of opinion, however, is that the synagogue originated during the Babylonian Exile, beginning in 586 B.C., when deprived of the Temple, Jews would meet from time to time to read the scriptures.  Whatever the exact origin, it is during the first century C.E., particularly after the destruction of of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. that the synagogue emerges as a well established institution and the center of the social and religious life of the people.

        For more information on the origins and history of synagogues, the following sources should be consulted:

       Encyclopedia Judaica, Keter Publishing,  Vol 15, P. 579-627        

       Carole Herselle Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe, P.5-20

       Synagogues, Shuls and Temples