Synagogue - American Education
A house of worship and communal center for Jews. Derived from the Greek word synagoge, meaning assembly, the earliest synagogues were indeed meeting places in Greek-controlled Israel during the first century B.C. Imitating the Greek custom of the era, the Israelites established synagogues not as places of worship but as meeting places for study and “for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments,” according to a first-century B.C. Greek inscription. In contrast, the Jerusalem Temple was the center for prayer, and it was only after its destruction in A.D. 70 that local synagogues began to house religious services. Synagogues remain centers of learning as well as prayer, with adjacent community centers used as sites for regular Sunday school sessions throughout the traditional American school year and for mid-week instruction for youngsters preparing for the Bar and Bat Mitzvah and confirmation rites. Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the United States, built in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1763.