Long ago rabbis defined three primary roles for a synagogue.  It was to be a beit tefilah – a house of prayer; a beit midrash – a house of study; and a beit knesset – a house of meeting.  Most, if not all, of what goes on in a synagogue – just as much today as centuries ago – fits into one or more of those categories. 

In some times and places one or other of those categories becomes more important.  But synagogues have always been in a state of evolution and flux.  As they must, for a synagogue has to respond to the needs, conditions and demands of its time, place, social circumstance and so on.


This is what makes our community so exciting.  We are all on a journey and for many Jews that journey takes them via the synagogue.  It can be a place for exploration of what it is to be a Jew; it can be a place where we celebrate the major moments in our individual and communal lives; it can be a place where we are somehow changed through our contact and involvement with it, where we feel we have grown, developed, become in some way better human beings.

Synagogue can be a place where we encounter another value system to the one prevalent in the world, some sort of counter-balance to the madness we so often see around us or when we switch on the news or open a newspaper.  It can be a place where we come to understand that the material things are not the limit of our existence – we have a spiritual dimension to our beings (even if we might not use or like the word, or find it faintly embarrassing).  Synagogue can be a place where we can ‘breathe,’ where we can feel supported, rather than judged, by our fellow human beings.

Synagogues can also be places where we feel challenged, often in quite uncomfortable ways, at all sorts of levels.  For synagogues can also be places where we realise the gaps in our knowledge and are encouraged and helped to fill them; where we can work to become better human beings; where we can see how we might fulfil our duties to the wider society in which we live.

In Sha'arei Tsedek in particular we work to break down the division between rabbis and ‘ordinary’ members. In some sense we are all ‘ordinary’ members, and what separates us is where we are on the journey.  So welcome to Sha'arei Tsedek. Our rabbis and all the community are here to accompany you on your journey.