Visiting a Synagogue
What is a Synagogue
Inside Jackson's Row Synagogue
The Order of Service


1. Visiting a Synagogue

Before you visit a synagogue for the first time it is wisest to make contact by telephone or E-Mail.  The security situation may mean that you may be turned away, if you do not.  You could be fortunate enough to be given the name of a person who will guide you through the service as English switches to Hebrew and back.

First a true story.  You may have already heard about the phone call that was received by someone in the office of the Reform synagogue that Rabbi Daniel Alexander served in as rabbinic student. This was in Meridian, Mississippi in 1977. The caller was a parishioner at a local Methodist church with a request. A group from the church wanted to attend the synagogue one Shabbat to watch the Jews perform their sacrifices.

The aim of this article is an attempt to educate and inform to so such a thing does not happen again.

The word synagogue means a meeting place: a place to study, a place to pray and a place to socialise.
Beit Haknesset is the Hebrew word which means literally house of assembly.
The synagogue is also known by various names.

the House of Prayer (Beit Tefillah) A place of worship, as Jews regard praying with a congregation as very
House of Study (Beit Hamidrash) Learning has always been important to Jews. All aspects of the Jewish religion, language and culture are of equal importance as is attending services.

House of the People (Beit Ha'Am) Because it is a community of ordinary people. Hierarchy is not necessary, you do not need a rabbi, ordinary  people can and do conduct  services and  organise activities in the front room of their own home.

America tends to use the word temple instead of synagogue. The Yiddish word Shul is also used, the word having its origins in the German word for school.

Since the fall of the second temple in Jerusalem, the Jews have scattered throughout the world into many countries in which they established their synagogues.


The Jews very ancient people tracing their ancestry back to the birth of Abraham in 1812 BCE.
Barred from taking governmental office and subjected to many persecutions, the Jews became great travellers and traders setting up communities in most countries of the world.

There  are two main groups of Jews, the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim. The word Sephard has its origins as the Hebrew word for Spain in the one chapter book of Obadiah referring to Sardis in distant Asia Minor and subsequently used for the faraway western land of Spain. Jews of that land and their decendents constitute Sephardic Jewry. The name Ashkenaz from Genesis 10:3 has since the tenth century been identified with Germany. It represents a throbbing vibrant and variegated Jewish life that flourished in Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, the Ukraine and Russia.


The first Jews entered Britain following the Norman invasion of 1066.
Aubrey Newman points out in her article, "History of Anglo Jewry." that it is generally accepted today that the Jews arrived sometime in the Middle Ages in the company of the Normans as an extension of the Jewish communities of Northern France.
In 1095, at a church in Clermont, in central France, Pope Urban II urged the Christians to rest the Holy Sepulchre from the wicked race holding it. So started the crusades and with it the persecution of the Jews as rumours spread that the Jews were secretly helping the cause of Islam.
From 1066 to 1290, different forms of anti Jewish sentiment plagued the Jewish population of Great Britain: blood libels, mass riots, and discriminatory legislation all were aimed at extracting Jewish wealth.

On November 1st, 1290, King Edward I expelled the Jews from England. Jews fled to France, Belgium, and Germany.

In 1655, the Sephardi Rabbi of Amsterdam, Menasseh Ben Israel came to London in hopes of persuading Oliver Cromwell to re-admit the Jews. No formal decision was rendered at the time, but Jews were able to acquire a house for a synagogue and burial grounds, free of religious disturbance.

In 1656 Jewish families began to return to Britain, mainly from Holland. In later centuries too many Jews came to Britain, escaping from persecution in Eastern Europe.

In Britain, the major communities of Jewish people live in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Tyneside and Glasgow.


Manchester's Jewish community is one of the most cosmopolitan in the world and dates back to the 1780s when Jewish people were amongst the immigrants who created Britain's first industrial city. It was founded
in the 1780s by two brothers from Liverpool.

Bill Williams in "The making of Manchester Jewry", published in 1976 by Manchester University Press,
suggest the beginnings of this flow. He quotes the account books of the Old Hebrew Congregation in
Manchester as showing that between 1848 and 1851, 2,000 paupers, more than twice the resident Jewish
population of Manchester at the time, were supplied with relief by the Jewish Congregation. Many of these
impoverished Jews seem to have been passing through Manchester on their way across England from Hull,
their port of disembarkation, to Liverpool where they hoped to continue their journey to the United States.

By 1865 there were less than 5,000 Jews in Manchester. The Jewish population of Manchester surged between 1883 and 1905 as a consequence of of the intensified persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe. These settlers were joined by a new immigrant class of merchants and cotton traders from Central Europe and North Africa. The Jewish population presently numbers 30,000, the second largest in the UK. In addition, Manchester is the only community in the UK besides London which enjoys its own active and successful religious and cultural community.

The first Jewish place of worship was built  in 1804 though the original cemetery in St Thomas' Church is ten years older. The first spiritual leader was a rabbi from Hungary, Joseph Crool. As the community grew, many began to work in the textile industry, whilst others were tailors.

Over the years it the community has included famous people, notably Dr Chaim Weitzmann, the first president of the State of Israel.

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2. What is a Synagogue?

The synagogue had come into existence long before the destruction of the Second Temple. It is generally accepted the the synagogue came into existence during the Babylonian captivity during the sixth century BCE (before the common era). The synagogues edifice varies from the magnificent synagogue of Alexandria, Egypt to unprepossessing wood with corrugated iron roofed structures. No other human institution has a longer continuous history or done more for uplifting of the human race.
The earliest British synagogues date from 19th century but also new modern buildings are being erected and consecrated each year.  The new synagogues do not have the aesthetic appeal of the historical structures.


Newton Synagogue Connecticut
From Picturing Faith: Religious America
Remains of Fortress Synagogue, Rymanov Poland
Wolverhampton Synagogue from Fryer Street
The Synagogue of Florence
© With permission,  Kelme, Lithuania
© Kerala, India

Orthodox grouping
The largest group of  British Jews belong to Orthodox synagogues  and are known as Ashkenazim.
In the Christian lands where Ashkenazi Judaism flourished, there was great tension between Christians and the and Jews tended to be isolated from their non-Jewish neighbours, either voluntarily or involuntarily. The Yiddish language, thought of by many as the international language of Judaism, is really the language of Ashkenazi Jews. Sephardic Jews have their own international language: Ladino, which was based on Spanish and Hebrew in the same way that Yiddish was based on German and Hebrew.

A smaller group of Orthodox Jews are known as Sephardim The beliefs of Sephardic Judaism are basically in accord with those of Orthodox Judaism, though Sephardic interpretations of halakhah (Jewish Law) are
somewhat different than Ashkenazi ones. Although some individual Sephardic Jews are less observant than others, there is no formal, organised differentiation into movements as there is in Ashkenazi Judaism.

Historically, Sephardic Jews have been more integrated into the local non-Jewish culture than Ashkenazi Jews. In the Islamic lands where Sephardic Judaism developed, no such segregation existed. Sephardic Jewish thought and culture was strongly influenced by Arabic and Greek philosophy and science.

Sephardic Jews have a different pronunciation of a few Hebrew vowels and one Hebrew consonant, though most Ashkenazim are adopting Sephardic pronunciation now because it is the pronunciation used in Israel.
Sephardic Jews also have different holiday customs and different traditional foods.

There are some Jews who do not fit into this Ashkenazi/Sephardi distinction. Yemenite Jews, Ethiopian Jews (also known as Beta Israel or Falashas), and Oriental Jews also have some distinct customs and traditions.

Reform grouping
Jackson's Row is a non Orthodox synagogue, and uses the word Reform as part of its title.
Reform Judaism maintains that the truths found in Jewish scriptures and other Jewish writings
come from G-d, but were transmitted by humans and contain a human component. Reform Judaism generally accepts the binding nature of halakhah (Jewish Law), but believes that the Law should change and adapt, to modern culture while remaining true to Judaism's values. Examples include driving and switching on electrical items on the Sabbath

Other groups
There are Liberal or Progressive groups which are affiliated to the Reform Synagogues of Great britain and there is also a small but active Conservative movement called the Masoreti, which uses the same prayer book as the Conservative movement in the United States.


Non Jewish visitors to Jackson's Row may find that whilst there are many differences, in some ways the service is very similar to the service in a Christian church.  Both  have congregational prayers, recitation of psalms, and a sermon. Most non Jews will not be familiar with the Hebrew prayers, nor understand them But there are two words which which most people will know. The first is Amen, which roughly translated means so may it be. It is a very ancient word and can be found in many parts of the Bible, such as Numbers 5: 22. The second word, used in the synagogue but again known by many non Jews, is Hallelujah, meaning praise the Lord!


There are a few significant differences in the way that services are conducted in different movements:

In Orthodox, women and men are seated separately; in Reform and Liberal, all sit together and there is no reserved seating.

In Orthodox everything is in Hebrew. In Reform, most is done in Hebrew. English making up 40%.

In Orthodox, the person leading the service has his back to the congregation, and prays facing the same direction as the congregation and the prayers are chanted.
In Reform, the person leading the service faces the congregation and is usually a Rabbi; though it may be another male of female. Prayers are read and singing may be accompanied by an organ or other musical instrument.

Reform is more rigidly structured and everybody arrives at the same time and leaves at the same time. Services start at a set time, usually one to two hours later than the Orthodox.   All act as one and everybody does the same thing at the same time.

Orthodox services seem somewhat chaotic, lasting up to twice as long as the Reform service. People show up when they show up, catch up to everybody else at their own pace, often doing things differently to everybody else. This is terrifying if you don't know what you're doing.

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3. Inside Jackson's Row Synagogue

One of the oldest and  largest synagogues in Manchester.  Built on the current site when the original synagogue at Park Place was bombed in 1941 and destroyed. Consecrated in 1953 and was given a Hebrew name which means Holy Congregation-Gate of Zion.


The foyer is large and people often chat there before the start of the service. If you have made arrangements for a guide this is where you will meet.
It is customary for all men and boys to cover their heads as a sign of respect. A non-Jewish male visitor may borrow a kippah (Hebrew) or yamulkah (Yiddish); this is a skullcap used to cover the head. A Trilby is just as acceptable.
There are also Bibles (the Chumash) that can be used to follow the Torah readings, together with the prayer book or Sidur.
Many women wear a hat; particularly at a wedding or Bar / Bat Mitzvah, though not compulsory, this is the opportunity to wear that creation you have kept in the wardrobe without wearing it.
They are notice boards, magazines and other literature on display.
All male Jews wear the tallit and cover their heads when they go to the Synagogue. It is also possible for a Jewish male visitor to borrow a tallit, a prayer- shawl.

The rule of wearing threads on the corners of one's clothing is a commandment found in the Bible itself: The Lord said to Moses:
"Speak to the children of Israel and tell them to make fringes on the corners of their garments for all time; have them attach a thread of blue to the fringe at each corner. And it shall be a fringe for you to see and remember all God's good deeds and do them and stray not after your heart and after your eyes to sin. Remember and do all My commandments and become holy to Your God. I am the Lord Your God who took you out of the land of Egypt to be Your God. I am the Lord Your God." (Numbers 15:37-41)

As a reminder of the blue thread which was once required in each corner of the prayer shawl, we traditionally include either blue or black stripes in the prayer shawl itself.

The blue stripes in the Israeli flag was put there as a reminder of the blue stripe that was traditionally put in the prayer shawl.

According to Jewish tradition, the act of putting on a prayer shawl has religious merit only if it is put on in the light of day.

A prayer shawl found in the Bar Kochva caves (132 of the common era) has threads which are of indigo dye, which is indistinguishable from the required blue dye, but not the correct dye prescribed for the making of the blue threads. In the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, in the building which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, there
is a small Bar Kochva exhibit. In it, one can see the remains of that prayer shawl.

There are several times during the service when it is customary to kiss the corner threads symbolically:
Prior to the reciting of "Hear Israel" the corners of the prayer shawl are gathered together in one hand. At this time the corner threads should be checked to see that they haven't become unravelled or untied. If you have checked that the four sets of corner threads have five knots on each corner, you have done what is necessary.
Usually if there is a problem, it is that the last knot and some twists have come undone. The fourth and last section of the corner threads of each corner has thirteen twists and then a double knot. Correct what has come unravelled.
During the recitation of the third paragraph of "Hear Israel" (Numbers 15:37-41) which mentions the threads three times, each time the word "threads" is read, it is customary to kiss the corner threads.
When the Torah is removed from the Ark and carried around the synagogue in procession, those within reach may touch the Torah mantle with the corner threads of their prayer shawl or with a closed prayer book, if they are not wearing a prayer shawl. It is then customary to kiss the corner threads or prayer book binding which touched the Torah scroll as an expression of love for the gift of Torah.

A prayer shawl is worn when making an Aliyah (a blessing in front of the congregation before reading a section of the Torah portion).

The blessing on putting on the prayer shawl for the service is:

          "Baruch atah adonai, elohenoo, melek ha-olam asher kidshanoo be-mistzvotav ve-tzevanu
          lehitatef betzitit"
          English translation:
          "Blessed are you, the Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has made us holy with His
          commandments and commanded us to wrap ourselves in the fringes."

A prayer shawl is not worn in the toilet.

If you take the prayer shawl off for a short time, you don't need to repeat the blessing when putting it on again.

The prayer shawl is worn for morning prayer during the week, on Saturday morning, and on other holy days. It is not worn for afternoon and evening prayers because of the commandment that one must see the corner threads and remember.
The three exceptions to these general rules are that a prayer shawl is worn at the following evening services:

Evening Kol Nidre service of Yom Kippur
Evening service of Simchat Torah
Special Friday evening services that include a Torah reading.

Rabbis and cantors wear a prayer shawl when conducting services except funeral services.

The leader of the prayer service (shaliach tzibur) wears a prayer shawl in the afternoon and evening as well.

Brides Room

To the right of the main entrance in the foyer there is the Bride's Room reserved for the bride and her near female relatives prior to her wedding ceremony.

Special clothes

When he is conducting a service the rabbi a suit and a tallit. On the Day of Atonement and at New Year, the rabbi wears a white gown called a kittle and a white kippah.

The Sanctuary

More than 500 families are members of Jackson's Row. Since many of these people worship there regularly, they need a large room in which to hold their services. This is the most important part of the synagogue.

At Jackson's Row it is divided into two sections. The main part is on the ground floor and is used by the majority of people. Entry is gained by two doors, one on each side of the foyer.
There is also a gallery, access to which is via flights of stairs on either side of the foyer.  Some members of the congregation like to sit here each week though it is mainly used when there is a festival or special service and a large congregation needs to be accommodated.

On entering the Sanctuary there are two isles dividing the seating into three sections, one central and two side sections.  The seating is made up of bench seating, with arm rests separating each seat.  If this is your first visit you would be wisest to sit from the middle towards the rear. This will enable you to follow others as they rise and stand at appropriate points of the service. At one time a family would occupy one seating position for many generations,  This is not the case today, though many regulars prefer to sit in the same seat each week.

As you look to the front of the Sanctuary you see the most important feature of any synagogue.  This is the Aron Hakodesh, the Holy Ark. The Ark is the enclosure in which the Scrolls of the Torah are kept.
It is like a very large cabinet and is placed on a platform against the eastern end of the synagogue, in the direction of the Holy City of Jerusalem.  Worshippers throughout the world always face towards Jerusalem .It is the Ark that makes the synagogue and is regarded as taking the place of the Ark of the Covenant described in Exodus 25: 10-22.
Jackson's Row has a most beautiful ark.  It is known as a hiddur mitzvah to add embellishment and to apply beautification to an object used in connection with a command from Torah.  There are a number embellishments in the form of Jewish symbols added to the doors of the Ark. They include the ram's horn or shofar, the Menorah or seven branched candlestick;  the oldest symbol of Judaism, and the mezuzah, a small case which contains a piece of parchment on which Hebrew extracts from the Torah are written. Jewish families put a mezuzah on the door posts of most rooms in their home. Although the Ark doors are heavy, they slide open easily. Covering the opening are curtains which must be drawn to the sides before the contents can be seen. When these are opened, by pulling a cord to the left,  a whole line of Torah scrolls come into view, each scroll dressed in beautiful blue mantles and various silver embellishments.


Immediately above the Ark there is a tablet with the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew.

Above this there is a single line of Hebrew writing. This is from Psalm 69 verse 13.

This translates as 'As for me, may my prayer come before You, 0 Lord in an acceptable time.'

Hanging before the Ark is a lamp. In Hebrew, the lamp is called Ner Tamid. It is never switched off and is a reminder that this is God's House, and His presence remains here, even when there are no worshippers in the synagogue.

Exodus 27:20 - 30:10 starts with a description of the ner tamid, usually translated as the "perpetual light" or the "eternal lamp." This was a light made using the purest olive oil that was to burn in the Tent of Meeting and later in the Temple. It is not clear whether this light actually burned continuously, or was rekindled every evening, but from the text it appears that it was re-lit daily.

Unfortunately, when we switch from olive oil to electricity, most of the original symbolism becomes difficult to retain. But some compare the light to Israel, the light to all nations; some talk about the olive being beaten to produce the purified oil, just as the people of Israel have to suffer in order to be purified. Others compare the light to the mitzvah of tzedakah (commonly incompletely translated as charity): just as one wick can light many lights without diminishing its own light, so tzedakah does not diminish the giver. There is a future, and we won't be in it.  It is eternal, but we are not.

Reading desk

In front of the Ark is the Reading (or Reader's) Desk, which at Jackson's Row is also used by the Rabbi to give his commentary. The Torah Scroll is also placed here and read.

Both the Ark and Desk stand on a raised platform known as the Bimah.

In most Orthodox synagogues, the Ark and the Reading Desk are separate. The Reading Desk is usually in the centre of the synagogue, where the officiant faces the Ark. At Jackson's Row, and most other Progressive synagogues,  the person leading the service faces the congregation with his back to the Ark for most of the service.


The number of Torah Scrolls in the Aron will vary from synagogue to synagogue.  There are eight Torah Scrolls in the Ark at Jacksons Row. They all contain the same text, namely the first five books of the Bible, often called the Five Books of Moses.  They are Genisis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. As a minimum a synagogue should have three Scrolls as, during the Day of Atonement service, there are three separate readings. It is impractical to search a scroll for the next passage as there are no titles or page numbers.  A family will often donate a Scroll, as a memorial to the death of a loved one, so the synagogue will gain extra Scrolls. Some of the Torah Scrolls at Jackson's Row are one hundred years old.
Every few years the Scrolls have to be checked, with constant use, the letters may become worn and unreadable and they can no longer be used. It is possible to correct some errors but the four letter name of G-d, the Tetragramaton, must never be erased. A new section may be written and re-stitched into the Scroll. Faulty sections or Scrolls must not be thrown away or in any way destroyed. They are still regarded as very precious as they contain God's holy words. Instead, they are stored and eventually buried in a Jewish cemetery.
For centuries, Torah Scrolls have been hand written by an expert scribe called a Sofer. The practice continues today and all the Scrolls in the Ark have been hand written. When a synagogue needs a new Scroll it will commission scribe to write one. A newly written Scroll today would cost in the order of £30,000. The parchment alone costs around £5,000 to buy. It takes a considerable amount of time to complete a Scroll. Working full- time it may take a Sofer one to three years to complete a Scroll.


A Scroll needs to be dressed before it can be placed in the Ark. This means it needs a cover or mantle. At Jackson's Row the colour of the mantle is blue, but other colours are used.  During Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement services all synagogues, however, change to a white mantle. Silver items are hung over the mantle. There is the breastplate which often contains the emblems of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Then the yad or pointer is hung over this; it is used when reading from the Scroll to avoid damage to the Scroll from finger grease and to avoid adding bacteria which could prematurely age the Scroll. Finally there are the bells or crown which are placed over the wooden rollers. All of the above can be found on the Scrolls at Jackson's Row.


4 The order of the Service.

Shabbat Morning Worship

Congregants gather in the foyer of Jackson's Row on Saturday morning, It is a chance for friends to meet and to chat an catch up on all that has been happening. There is a buzz of conversation prior to the service but  silence as the service begins.
If you've never been to a Jewish religious service, following the service in the Sidur can be quite a challenge, there are six orders of service that may be chosen, the themes are:  Tradition, Life and Death, The Future, The Just Society, The Community and The Family of Israel. The information sheet available in the foyer indicates which has been chosen as an appropriate theme.

Responses to Prayer

As a general rule, you say "amen" which looks like this in Hebrew whenever someone
else says a blessing. It's as if you said the blessing yourself. Whenever you hear someone say "Barukh atah...", get ready to say "amen." The "amen" may be at the end of the current sentence, or at the end of the current paragraph.

Bear in mind that you only say "amen" when someone else says a blessing.

There are a few other places where "amen" is said. If the prayer leader says "ve-imru amen" (let's say
"amen"), you join in on the word "amen," so watch for the word "ve-imru." This comes up
 several times in the Kaddish prayer.


You should stand at the following times:

There are a few other prayers that require standing, but these are the most notable.


Bowing is done several times during the service:

Opening prayers

The service opens when those who are going to lead the service enter onto the Bimah via a door at the rear, all the congregation stand.

The service opens with the Hebrew words "Va-ani brov hasdeka avo bey-teka"...  which translates as "Through the greatness of Your love I enter Your house" ...

the service continues with a Psalm or prayers appropriate to the theme.


This prayer belongs to the group that were composed in remote antiquity, one portion is quoted as part of a prayer for rain.  Many biblical phrases are interwoven into the text of this hymn.

"The breath of life in every creature shall bless You, Lord our G-d, and the spirit of all flesh ever recalls Your beauty and Your greatness."

It has been modified and expanded in the course of many centuries.


"Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One".  This is a confession of Jewish faith, summing up the first and second commandments. The Shema has been a password by which Jews recognise each other
throughout the world.  The last letter of
 are larger and together form
the word which means witness.  One who recites the Shema bears witness to the Oneness 
 of G-d.


The Amida, also known as Shemoneh Esrei is spoken of as the prayer par excellence due to its importance and antiquity.  It was composed during the early period of the Second Temple.  Shemoneh Esreh denotes eighteen, that is eighteen benedictions, but an additional paragraph was added at the end of the first century.  The addition concerned slanderers and enemies.  The  name Amida as it is now generally referred, which means standing, more accurately describes this prayer for the Sabbath or festival as the petitions are commited leaving only seven blessings (see Ein Kelohenu below)

Torah Service

The main part of the Sabbath morning service is the reading from the Torah. The Ark is opened, a Torah Scroll is taken out and held by a warden or other member.

Leka Adoni

A verses from Diverei Yamim A (Chronicles 1) 29:11 is then sung and the Torah scroll is taken in procession around the synagogue.
L’cha Adonai hag’dulah v’hag’vurah 
v’hatif’eret v’haneitzach v’hahod.
Ki kol bashmayim uva’aretz. 
L’cha Adonai ha’mamlach’ah 
v’hamitnasei l’chol lirosh.
Yours, God, is the greatness, the strength, the splendour, the triumph and the glory; even everything in heaven and earth; 
Yours, God, is the kingdom, and the sovereignty over leader.

Some congregants bow before it as a sign that it is God's holy word. Others will touch the Mantle of the scroll with the Sidur or the tassels of their Tallit  and then kiss the tassels or Sidur as a sign of respect.
As the scroll passes those who people who are to read the blessing over the Torah will join the procession.
As soon as the Torah scroll is at rest and the person carrying it is seated, you may sit also.


The Rabbi will give a commentary relating the passage to be read. Drawing parallels between events recorded long ago to current events, or expand the theme of the passage, explaining the meaning.

Torah Reading

The Torah is brought to the reading desk, whenever the Torah is in motion the people stand. A person lifts and opens the Torah Scroll so that all the congregation can see its text.  At Jackson's Row as well as some other Progressive synagogues, the Scroll is elevated and rotated to show all aspects of the Scroll.

Each Sabbath a portion of the Torah is chanted or read. It takes a year to complete the reading of the whole Scroll. At Jackson's Row, the reading is about thirty verses long.  In Orthodox synagogues, the reading is much longer. At Jackson's Row, at least three people are called up to the reading when they recite various blessings.

Many Progressive synagogues only call up one person, whereas Orthodox synagogues usually call up seven, all of whom have to be males over the age of thirteen. After the reading, there is an elevation. A person lifts and opens the Torah Scroll so that all the congregation can see its text. It is then dressed by another person, often assisted by young children.

Haftara or the reading from the Prophets

In addition to the Torah reading there is the Haftara, the reading from the prophets. At various times in Jewish history, our oppressors did not permit us to have public readings of the Torah, so a section from the Prophets is read, this is referred to as the Haftara and will have a similar core content to that of the Torah reading.  At Progressive synagogues like Jackson's Row, it is usually read in English, but sometimes Bar / Bat Mitzvah will read it in Hebrew. In Orthodox synagogues, it is chanted in Hebrew, although the chant is a little different from the one used for the Torah reading.


After the readings from the Scripture, a number of special prayers are recited. They include prayers for the recovery of the sick or troubled, for the welfare of the congregation and for the Queen, the Royal Family and the State of Israel. The latter prayers, like other important ones, are recited when the congregation is standing.  After these prayers, the Torah is again carried around the synagogue to the accompaniment of Psalm 29, and as before, many worshippers bow before the Torah Scroll,  touch the fringes of their tallit on the Torah, and then kiss the tallit or touch the Torah Scroll with the Sidur and then kiss the Sidur. This is another form of respect for the Torah.

After the Torah Scroll has been returned to the Ark the curtains to the Aron are closed, the rabbi, if he has not already given a commentary then he, will give his sermon. He may take as his theme a topic from one of the Scriptural readings. He may, instead, speak about an event that has happened during the week.

Ein Kelohenu

Though it is not rhymed, Ein Kelohenu is sung  and has a pleasing resonance to the words. It brings the total benedictions back to nineteen,   An acrostic "Amen, blessed art thou," is formed by the initial letters.  Each of the three letters of Amen are repeated four times to give a total of twelve, making nineteen blessings in total.
Replacing those that are left out of the Amida because it is a Sabbath.

The curtain to the ark is opened.


Another important prayer is the Aleinu, which is recited at or near the end of every service. It also proclaims G-d as King over a united humanity and has been the closing prayer since the thirteenth century.  An old tradition is that it was composed at the time Joshua entered the Land of Promise. It is generally believed that it was introduced by Rav, the founder of Sura Academy, early in the third century. In the third century it was the death song of the Jewish martyrs, moderating their death agonies.


The most important prayer is the Kaddish, which praises G-d and the only prayer in Aramaic.  The prayer begins "Let us magnify and let us sanctify the great name of G-d in the world which He created according to His will.  May His kingdom come in your lifetime, and in your days......"

The Kaddish is commonly known as a mourner's prayer, but in fact, variations of the prayer are routinely recited at many other times, to mark the conclusion of sections of the service and at the end of study readings and the prayer itself has nothing to do with death or mourning.   The real mourner's prayer is El Molai Rachamim, which is recited at grave sites and during funerals.

The is Kaddish recited by mourners, since the study of Torah was always considered meritorious and a fitting remembrance of the dead, the idea arose that as the Kaddish was read at the conclusion of a Torah reading the Kaddish gradually became associated as the prayer for the departed.

A great loss like the death of a parent, you might cause a person to lose faith in G-d, or to cry out against G-d's injustice. Instead, Judaism requires a mourner to stand, publicly in front of a "minyan", (a quorum of at least 10 adult men), every day and reaffirm faith in G-d despite this loss. In the eyes of G-d,  doing so adds to the merit of the deceased , because the deceased must have been a very good parent to raise a child who could express such faith in the face of personal loss. (see Mourning below).

Adon Olam

A hymn of deep religious content which is used to bring the service to a close.  Adon Olam meaning "Eternal Lord."  It is attributed to various medieval poets who lived during the eleventh century, particularly Solomon ibn Gabirol.  According to Greek philosophers, the universe is eternal; according to Judaism G-d alone is eternal.  The Eternal Lord is described as existing before the creation of the world and will still exist after the cessation of the world.

The congregation then adjourn to the hall for Kiddush and refreshments, to meet friends and catch up on events.


Literally sanctification. Kiddush is a prayer recited over wine, a prayer of  sanctification over the wine.  Wine is a metaphorical representation of the essence of goodness. Israel is likened to a vine brought out of Egypt and planted in Israel.  Wine is a symbol of joy as it is "wine that cheers a mans heart", Psalm 104: 15.  Kiddush is said in the home at the commencement of Shabbat, but when said in the synagogue on Shabbat morning it is called Kiddusha Rabbah, the great Kiddush, but is actually of lesser importance as that recited in the evening.  Since the Kiddush is a form of testimony to the universe being G-ds creation all stand up as witnesses who testify standing.

A glass of wine is held in the hand as the Kiddush is recited,  and everyone drinks from their glass. This is followed by a blessing over the bread.  Two loaves of Challot are blessed and broken up. A piece is given to every person.

Everyone is enjoys the food and conversation.  It is an opportunity for people to chat to one another and to welcome any visitors who may be present. Non Jews also welcome. They are interested in learning about Jewish worship. At Jackson's Row congregants are very friendly, all visitors are made to feel at home and are invited to ask questions about Jewish worship in general,  and worship at Jackson's Row in particular.

5 Ceremonies


Young children may find an adult service too long and a little difficult to understand. At Jackson's Row, there are children's services on the first Saturday in the month.  Although adults are present, the service is led and conducted by the children themselves. Standing as a group on the Bimah the younger children dance and sing prayers unaccompanied or to the accompaniment of a guitar. The older children read the study passage and conduct the service. The Torah reading is shortened so as to prevent the onset of boredom.


According to Jewish law, getting married is an exceedingly simple affair: The bride accepts  something worth more than the smallest valid coin from the groom, the groom utters  words of acquisition and consecration, these two actions are witnessed, and voila, the  happy couple is married. All the rest, i.e., the white gown, the veil, the portable Chuppah  (wedding canopy), etc., are but customs which have grown up around Jewish weddings  through the ages

A lawful Jewish marriage requires an act of kinyan (that the bride be given – and that she  accept – something of nominal value from the groom). In ancient times, coins were typically  given.  Since the 7th century  C.E., rings replaced coins in most of Europe as the "gift of choice." It is  suggested that the preference for rings is attributable to their circular form,  symbolising  endless love between a husband and wife.

The double ring ceremony popular today is a relatively recent custom, and one that raises  some objections amongst traditional Jews.  Reform rabbis find no legal objection to the double ring ceremony.  A modern trend is to inscribe biblical or other significant Hebrew phrases on the ring. This may be ' Eshet Chayil Ateret Balalah' which means "'A Woman Of  Valour Is Her Husband's Crown", or the gender neutral, 'Ani L'Dodi V'L' Dodi Li', which translates as "I  Belong To My Beloved And My Beloved Belongs To Me".

According to Jewish law, the ring must belong to the  groom, be of solid metal without of gems, so its value can be ascertained. The addition of precious stones could produce  uncertainty to the rings values, which  could cause a bride to  reconsider.

The custom of wearing of the veil, has its origins in the Bible.  Rebecca on seeing Isaac, her husband to be, for the first time,  "took her veil and  covered herself." (Gen. 25:65)
Another veiling custom, Badekin (the veiling of the bride by the groom just before the  wedding), also has biblical roots. The story of Jacob and his two wives,  Leah and Rachel, relates how Jacob's father in law, Laban, veiled Leah heavily before the wedding, tricking Jacob into  marrying Leah instead of his beloved Rachel.  By placing the veil over the bride's face himself, a Jewish groom makes sure he doesn't  repeat Jacob's mistake.

The white bridal dress is common to assumed to be universal, which it is not. In fact, Oriental and  Sephardic brides have traditionally worn brightly coloured dresses set off with veils made of  streaming gold coins.  The white bridal gown became customary amongst Ashkenazic Jews who followed the  example of their Christian neighbours.  The white gown has  come to symbolise bridal virginity in Christian culture.  The Jewish tradition the gown  denotes something quite different –that no matter how sexually active a bride may have  been before marriage, the wedding purifies her. White is worn to symbolise the purity  conferred upon her by the wedding.

In many communities a bride gives a tallit to the groom, despite being a Bar Mitzvah for years. According to   Jewish mysticism, the tallit is associated with sexual temptation. This is more of  an issue after marriage than at the age 13 when he became a Bar Mitzvah. The biblical  command to wear the fringes on the tallit states: " shall look at them and not be  tempted to follow your heart and eyes." For a married man, the tallit now functions as  a reminder to keep his mind off forbidden sexual relationships

Another ancient custom that has lately been transformed is the marriage contract, or ketubah, the earliest  was written at the end of the first century C.E. by Shimon ben Shetach, head of the ancient  rabbinical court. The ketubah was a radical document in its day because it provided women with legal status and rights in marriage, it spells out a husband's obligations to his wife.   The text for ketubot has remained  virtually unchanged until recently. Many couples that consider the traditional ketubah is of touch with contemporary views on relationships and they are creating new ones.
Whereas the original ketubot were about a man’s obligations to his wife, modern versions are typically egalitarian. Many ketubot now include joint declarations of commitment, made by both bride and groom,  a joint declaration of faith in God and a connection to the Jewish people. The original ketubot were written in Aramaic but  modern documents are usually drafted in both Hebrew and English. Having a custom made ketubah, generated by a professionally calligrapher, with customised decorations has also become popular.

More than ten marriages are performed at Jackson's Row each year. Most Jewish weddings in Britain usually take place on a Sunday in the early in the afternoon. Sabbath and festivals are considered joyful days and weddings do not take place on them. It is better to spread the joy, rather than have two joyful events on the same day. Likewise because of sad events in Jewish history there are also other days and periods when weddings cannot take place.

For the wedding ceremony, a chuppah or canopy is erected in the synagogue near the Ark. It consists of a large piece of silk cloth supported by four poles, one at each corner. The bride, bride-groom, parents, and often grandparents, will all stand under it, together with the rabbi.

The bride and groom will drink wine from the same cup to show that in their future life together they will share all things. The groom will place a wedding ring on the bride's forefinger on the right hand and will recite a verse in Hebrew which says that she is now his wife according to the laws of the Jewish religion. The bride is then free to move the ring to the usual finger. At a Jackson's Row wedding, the bride will also make a similar declaration, sometimes giving her future husband a ring. The rabbi will give a short talk to the newly married couple, and then read to them their ketubah. He will ask God to bless the couple in the years ahead.
© With permission of the Bride & Groom, 
Stacey and Larry

The final act may seem rather strange to a first time visitor. A small glass is placed on the floor, just in front of the groom, who raises his foot and stamps on the glass. No one knows for certain why this is done. Some say it is to remind those present that the Temple is in ruins and we mourn this and other sad events in Jewish history. Others say that marriage will not solve all problems, and there will be times when there is a little strain in a marriage which may bring some unhappiness. Life itself, like a glass, cannot last forever, and we should always remember this.

Bar / Bat Mitzvah

On certain Sabbaths, a special event takes place at Jackson's Row during the morning service. A boy will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah or a girl her Bat Mitzvah. Bar/Bat Mitzvah means son/daughter of the commandment or Torah, but this is misleading Bar is Aramaic denoting age, membership of a definite class or possession of some quality. The purpose is to mark the transition to adult religious maturity by extending the privilege of reading from the Torah. From that day the young person is regarded as a full member of the synagogue community and as a responsible adult in all religious aspects. A Bar Mitzvah usually takes place when a boy is thirteen years old.
The main feature of the Bar / Bat Mitzvah ceremony in any synagogue is for the boy / girl to chant or read passages from the Torah. The Rabbi will first call the Bar / Bat Mitzvah to the Torah, who reads a passage from the Sidur taking on the yoke of responsibility.
The father will then read the first blessing before the reading of the Torah. The Bar / Bat Mitzvah will then read or chant one or more passages, with other relatives reading the blessings.
A Musaf or extra reading is added at the end of the Torah reading to give the Bar / Bat Mitzvah the opportunity to read the blessing.
Each Bar / Bat Mitzvah is presented with a prayer book or Bible and certificates. It is a very proud day for both the young person and the parents, and often they will celebrate at a special lunch after the service in the synagogue hall. Sometimes instead, a dinner will be arranged the following evening when the Bar / Bat Mitzvah will give a little speech to thank parents for their love and help. It is a family occasion and relatives will come often from as far afield as America or Israel.


When a member of Jackson's Row dies, the relatives can leave all the details of the funeral arrangements to the synagogue secretary. The burial will take place as soon as possible, usually the following day, unless it is a Sabbath or festival. Orthodox Judaism forbids cremation but Jackson's Row does allow it. The synagogue's present cemetery is part of the City Council's cemetery. After the funeral, special daily prayers will be said in the home of the near relatives, taken by the rabbi, or by a member of the synagogue, who perhaps was a friend of the dead person. Some families have these home services for a week, others just for one to three days. It is good to know that a person or family suffering the loss of a loved one can get much comfort from members of the synagogue.

Death is a natural process, death is not a tragedy, even when it occurs early in life or through unfortunate circumstances. . In Judaism, our deaths, like our lives, have meaning and are all part of G-d's plan. Jews have a firm belief in an afterlife, a world to come, where those who have lived a worthy life will be rewarded.

Mourning practices are extensive, but they are not an expression of fear or distaste for death. The practices relating to death and mourning have two purposes: to show respect for the dead (kavod ha-met), and to comfort those who will miss the deceased (nihum avelim).

Care for the Dead

Respect for the dead body is a matter of paramount importance. After a person dies, the eyes are closed, the body is laid on the floor and covered, and candles are lit next to the body. The body is never left alone until after burial, as a sign of respect. The person accompanying the body, the shomerim may not eat, drink, or perform a commandment in the presence of the dead. To do so would be considered mocking the dead.

There is an organisation to care for the dead, manned by volunteers. Because they are performing a service for someone who can never repay them, their work is considered extremely meritorious
Autopsies in general are discouraged as desecration of the body. They are permitted, however, where it may save a life or where the law requires it.

People who have been in the presence of a body wash their hands before entering a home. This is symbolic, removing spiritual impurity, not physical uncleanness. This is done regardless of whether you have physically touched the body.

In preparation for the burial, the body is thoroughly cleaned and wrapped in a simple, plain linen shroud. The dressing of the body and the coffin should be simple, so that a no distinction is made between a poor person and a rich person, neither receiving more honour in death than the other. The body is wrapped in a tallit with its tzitzit rendered invalid. The body is not embalmed, and no organs or fluids may be removed.

Generally the body should not be cremate, it must be buried in the earth, but in many Reform congregations it has become acceptable. . Coffins are not required, but if they are used, they must have holes drilled in them so the body comes in contact with the earth.

The body is never displayed at funerals; ceremonies at which the coffin is open are forbidden
by Jewish law. Exposing a body is considered disrespectful, because it allows not only friends, but also enemies to view the dead, mocking their helpless state.

So that the deceased will not be forgotten and the grave will not be desecrated, Jewish law requires that a tombstone be prepared, . It is customary to keep the tombstone veiled, or to delay in putting it up, until the end of the 12 month mourning period. The idea underlying this custom is that the dead will not be forgotten when he is being mourned every day. There is generally a formal unveiling ceremony when the tombstone is revealed.

It is also custom, well known from the movie Schindler's List, to place small stones on a grave when visiting it. The origin of the practice is unclear, two options are that it is a little like leaving a calling card for the dead person, to let them know you were there, or that it was originally done because we are required to erect a tombstone, and they tended to be desecrated.


Jewish mourning practices cover several periods of decreasing intensity. These mourning periods allow the full expression of grief, while discouraging excesses of grief and allowing the  gradually return to a normal life.

When a parent, sibling, spouse or child first hears of the death of a relative, it is traditional to express the initial grief by tearing one's clothing. The tear is made over the heart if the deceased is a parent, or over the right side of the chest for other relatives. This tearing of the clothing is referred to as keriyah (literally "tearing"). The mourner recites the blessing ending "dayan ha-emet" describing G-d as "the true Judge," an acceptance of G-d's taking of the life of a relative.

From the time of death to the burial, the mourner's sole responsibility is caring for the deceased and preparing for the burial. This period is known as "aninut", during which time, the mourners are exempt from all positive commandments because the preparations take first priority. This period usually lasts a day or two; Judaism requires prompt burial.

During aninut the family should be left alone and allowed the full expression of grief. Condolence calls or visits should not be made during this time.

After the burial, a near neighbour, close relative, or friend prepares the first meal for the mourners, the "se'udat havra'ah" meaning a meal of condolence. This meal traditionally consists of eggs and bread, eggs being a symbol of life. The meal is for the family only, not for visitors. After this time, condolence calls are permitted.

The next period of mourning lasts seven days and is known as "shiva" , meaning seven. Shiva is observed by parents, siblings, children siblings spouses of the deceased. Shiva lasts from the  day of burial until the morning of the seventh day after burial. Mourners sit on the floor or low stools instead of chairs, they do not,  shave or cut their hair, wear leather shoes, wear cosmetics, do any work, do things for comfort or pleasure, or study Torah. Mourners wear the clothes that they tore at the time of learning of the death or at the funeral. Mirrors in the house are covered. Prayer services are held in the same place as where the shiva is held, with relatives, friends and neighbours making up the "minyan".

The Sabbath that occurs during the shiva period is not observed as a day of mourning but counts toward the seven days of shiva. The mourning is terminated if a festival occurs during the mourning period. If the burial were to occur during a festival, the mourning is delayed until after the festival.

The next period of mourning is known as "shloshim"  meaning thirty, because it lasts until the 30th day after burial. During shloshim the mourners do not attend parties or celebrations, shave or cut their hair, or listen to music.

The final period of formal mourning, which is only applicable when the deceased is a parent, is called "avelut". This period lasts for twelve months after the burial. During avelut mourners avoid parties, and joyous events. For eleven months of that period, starting at the time of burial, the son of the deceased recites the mourner's Kaddish every day.

When the avelut period is complete, the family of the deceased must cease formal mourning.  On the anniversary of the death, family members observe the deceased's "Yahrzeit"  meaning anniversary in Yiddish. On the Yahrzeit, Kaddish is recited and an aliyah is undertaken if possible. Mourners light a candle, that burns for 24 hours, in honour of the relative.

A visitor to a family in mourning the guest should allow the mourner to initiate conversations.  Do not divert the conversation away from talking about the deceased. The purpose of the mourning period is to fully express grief. Diverting the conversation would limit this ability.  On the contrary, the caller should encourage conversation about the deceased.

It is tradition when leaving a house of mourning for the visitor to to say, "May the Lord comfort you with all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."

Kaddish is only recited for only 11 months of the 12 month mourning period.  According to Jewish tradition, the soul must spend some time purifying itself before it can enter the World to Come. The maximum time required for purification is 12 months, for the most evil person. To recite Kaddish for 12 months would imply that the parent was the type who needed 12 months of purification! To avoid this implication, the Sages decreed that a son should recite Kaddish for only eleven months.

A person is permitted to recite Kaddish for other close relatives as well as parents, but only if his parents are dead.


The ceremony of blessing a new born baby was introduced to the synagogue by the early leaders of Progressive Judaism. This takes place during the Sabbath morning service after the Torah is returned to the Ark. The parents bring their child before the Ark.  In front of the whole congregation, the rabbi announces both a Hebrew and an English name for the boy or girl, followed by a special blessing. After the service, the parents invite the congregation to join with them in Kiddush and take part in their family "simcha"  (joyful occasion).


Since its foundation, Jackson's Row members have made every effort to be on friendly terms with their  neighbours of other religions. Countless groups from schools and churches  have to learn about the Jewish religion.
Members of Jackson's Row have also been involved in making contacts with as many as possible of these other religions so that true harmony can exist amongst people of all religions.

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