What do Jews do in a Synagogue?
The defining functions of a synagogue are prayer and Torah-study. Anything else (assembly; social gatherings) is incidental.
The importance of prayer:
Prayer services are part of halakha (Jewish law) and tradition (Talmud, Berakhot 26a); and the Torah records several prayers of our forefathers.
Prayer is an important form of communicating with God, and maintaining a relationship with Him; and it is also good for the health of the soul, to which Torah, prayer and religious observances are a form of nourishment. Judaism sees it as centrally important to thank God, to recognize that He is the source of prosperity, and to be close to Him.
According to our tradition, we can pray privately when necessary, but communal prayer has a much stronger effect (Talmud, Berakhot 7b-8a). It also strengthens the spiritual level and the bonds within the community.
How do Jews pray?
The Jewish prayer-book has a structured order. Prayers are ancient, and often are sung or chanted. Some prayers are said in unison (such as Shir Hakavod), and some are not. Some prayers are said more than once per day (such as the Shema), some once a day (such as Yotzer Ohr), and others are said only on Sabbath, festivals or certain occasions. Some prayers are said aloud (such as Kaddish), some are sung (such as Lekha Dodi) and some are to be whispered (the Amidah). Most of the services are in Hebrew, but a couple of prayers are in Aramaic (such as Brikh Shemei).
While praying, Jews either sit, or stand, depending on the prayer. There is also some bowing forward (in the Amidah and Aleinu), but Jews today do not kneel except once a year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
In between the prayers, Kaddish is said; and the Torah is read on many occasions (over two hundred times a year).
While formal prayer services are held in the synagogue three times each day throughout the year, many other blessings (such as those over meals) are said in the home.
See also the Related Links.
The synagogue has 3 functions. It is a house of prayer, a house
of study, and a house of assembly (or socializing)
Jews pray, congregate, and eat. It's not terribly different than
a church or a mosque. If you want a clearer idea of what goes on,
I'd recommend you to contact a nearby Synagogue and try to schedule
a visit for Shabbat Services on Saturday.
"synagogue" is greek, for "place of assembly". In Hebrew it is
This is the place where a Jewish congregation reads the Torah
portion for the week (one section of the Old Testament, in ancient
hebrew), prays for the sick, asks for peace, and in general
celebrates the Sabbath.
It is just like a Christian church in many ways.
Mostly we pray there, but we also eat there sometimes, study,
have Bar or Bat mitzvahs, and celebrate any good news from the
community (someone recovering from an illness, birthdays, people
who come back after a long trip)