Site icon The Altneuschul Synagogue

Religious Objects

Synagogues became the location for Jewish worship after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. A synagogue serves as the location of the house of worship, a social hall, and a classroom. Three components are needed in each synagogue: a Torah scroll, a Holy ark, and the lamp of Eternal light. Besides these necessities, synagogues do not have to follow a specific stylistic form, prompting various styles in amongst the spaces.

Holy Ark

Terms:
Holy Ark: place where Torah scrolls are kept.
Torah: text used in liturgical services, consisting of the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Parochet: cloth covering the Ark, symbolic of the curtain covering the Ark in the Temple.1
Lamp of the Eternal Light: light source of the Ark, symbolic of the light from the golden menorah at the Temple.2
Shiviti: plaque which reminds viewers of the presence of G-d, inscribed with Psalm 16:8 “I have set the Lord always before me.”3
Ark of the Covenant: location where the Ten Commandments were kept in a golden box.4 Currently, its whereabouts are unknown.

The Altneuschul’s Ark is decorated with a tympanum, similar to the one seen at the entrance. A richly embroidered deep red parochet covers the space. In front of the parochet is the lamp of eternal light. Beside the Ark is the Shiviti plaque.

Bimah

Terms:
Wrought Iron Cage: A feature that is distinct of the style of medieval Ashkenazi structures.
Reader’s Desk: the place where the Torah is read from during liturgical services.

The bimah at the Altneuschul was reconstructed and is dated to sometime after 1483. It is made of stone and has wooden seats, formerly stone and replaced in the 1880s, surrounding the space.5

Safes

Money safes were common in medieval synagogues. They held a variety of functions such as a place to drop loose coinage for needy, storage for prayer books and ritual objects, or to keep tax money collected by the local Jewish community.

Notes

  1. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/365931/jewish/The-Holy-Ark-Aron-Hakodesh.htm
  2. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/365933/jewish/Ner-Tamid-The-Eternal-Light.htm
  3. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Shiviti
  4. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4277479/jewish/The-Ark-of-the-Covenant-Explained.htm
  5. http://www.kornbluthphoto.com/AltneuschulHall.html (dates)
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