The Great Synagogue

The Jerusalem Great Synagogue is located within walking distance of Mamilla Mall, a new mall outside the Old City. It is one of the few synagogues in the world that has a cantor and choir which officiate regularly on Shabbat, holidays and Israel Independence Day. This synagogue welcomes non-Jews to visit and learn about Judaism and Jewish prayer.

Photo: Dr. Andrew Skinner outside the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. The façade is based on the sanctuary of the Second Temple which was destroyed at the order of the Roman emperor, Titus, in the year 70 CE.

Photo: Dr. Dave & Chris Heiner were with us along with other services couples.

Photo: Doug & Janna Combs.
Photo: Reg & Carol Christensen

This synagogue has been a spiritual, cultural and social center for the Jewish People from around the world and is dedicated to the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and to soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the State of Israel. The synagogue symbolizes their strength in the face of adversity.

This synagogue was built in 1982 and other than the Western Wall in Jerusalem, there is not one sanctuary which serves as a 'home away from home' for so many visitors as does the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

Photo: Doors of the synagogue are symbolic of the breast plate worn by the High Priest.

Upon entering the foyer, we saw one of the largest collections of mezuzahs in the world which have been collected by Dr. Belle Rosenbaum. One might ask, "What is a mezuzah?" On every doorpost in most Jewish homes, there is a parchment scroll containing two excerpts from the Torah encased in a cover of wood, metal or other material. The cover in which the scroll is encased is a mezuzah.

Motivated by a deep sentimental memories of her early childhood experiences of her father holding her in his arms to reach up and kiss the mezuzah on her doorpost at home, Dr. Belle Rosenbaum began collecting 19th and 20th century mezuzots from across the world in 1940. Believing that mezuzots were the "jewels of the home", Belle spent 50 years collecting them to showcase.

Photo: Mezuzah collection. The mezuzah dedicates Jewish homes as a Temple of God and reminds those who live there that the God is owner of all earthly possessions.

Dr. Belle's desire to collect mezuzahs was inspired by her deep devotion to her faith and her commitment to perpetuate her heritage for generations to come.

Dating back to Mosaic times, the mezuzah is also a symbol of devotion to the God and when an owner enters, they place their hand upon the mezuzah to remind them that they are entering a consecrated home. And . . . when leaving their home, once again they place their hand on the mezuzah which commits their home to the protection of God. What a beautiful concept!

Photo: On one side of the entrance is a small synagogue which is used for a more private worship and reading of the Torah.

Photo: The menorah was appliqued on a velvet backing.

Photo: This is the staircase leading up to the upper level of the Great Synagogue and where Jewish women worship. Only men can worship on the main level so we walked up the beautiful staircase only to be find that the door was locked.

Dr. Skinner shows us a prayer shawl.

The magnificent stained glass windows above the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) are the works of a Swiss artist. The colors are vividly displayed when brightened by natural sunlight. There are 5 windows situated above the Torah scrolls. The central theme is the spiritual and physical worlds which God created. Note the division of the worlds by the rainbow which goes across the center.

At the very top of the windows is the verse "Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory and the majesty; for all that is in the Heavens and the Earth is Yours; Yours is the Kingdom. (I Chron. 29:11). The dominant color of the upper part of the windows is blue and the words and design are symbolic of the spiritual world.

Women are not allowed to go in but our little group was granted permission to step in for a few moments to reverently take some photos.

We were captivated by the beautiful stained glass windows along the walls of synagogue on the lower level. The windows are symbolic and depict the past and the future of the Jewish Nation. From what I recall, there were twelve stained glass windows on the lower level.

We were enthralled by the beauty of the windows. Note the "Tree of Life" in one of the windows.

The stained-glass windows on the sides of the men's sections were created by artist, Alexander Friedman, and depict themes of Shabbat, holidays and Biblical events.

In this photo you can see the stained glass windows that line the walls of the synagogue.

Highlighting the sanctuary is huge chandelier weighing more than three tons.

Photo: This beautiful menorah was located near the main prayer stand (bima). There are 1,400 cushioned seats in the Great Synagogue (including the women's section on the 2nd level.)

Photo: Looking up at the women's section, the windows were even more glorious and each was a floral design. The light too bright and therefore I wasn't able to snap individual photos.

Photo: We were fortunate to have Dr. Skinner explain more about this wonderful synagogue.

Photo: In Israel, books are read from right to left. This shows one of the prayer books. I tried to buy a 2017 calendar but became so discombobulated when trying to use it, I had to ask a daughter to send me one made in the US. There are some things in Israel I just can't get used to and really don't want to try.

Photo: It has been said when visiting the Great Synagogue that you have to "Feel it with your eyes and see it with your Soul." We certainly witnessed both with our visit.
Photo: We left feeling grateful for one more opportunity to learn and experience yet another holy place in Jerusalem.