|The Doors of Rememberance
The synagogue has been the central communal building in
Jewish society for almost two thousand years.
In the years preceding the destruction of the
Temple in 70 A.D. (B.C.E.), the
synagogue/temple was primarily a house of assembly, (Bet-Knesset). Devoted to the communal needs of the
people. Dealing with local issues in the
realm of legal, social, and the economy.
In the decades following the destruction of the Temple,
the synagogue took on the additional tasks of representing through the
institution of the thrice-daily prayer ritual, the practice of sacrifice. In
the days of the Temple, prayer was not considered necessary; do to the practice of the sacrifices. Now the
individual congregations handled the praise of The Lord. It was no longer
necessary to have a go between, now the average Jew was able to communicate
directly with The Lord. There was great disarray, and confusion at first. This
was only heightened by the lack of the unifying symbol of the Temple,
and the High Priest, whose position required that he render The Lords judgment;
in so much as it was his interpretation of the Law. However over time, the prayer ritual was able
to replace the sacrificial system, the synagogue was to evolve into a House of
Prayer (Bet-Teffilah), a house of Study (Bet-Midrash), and a House of Assembly
(Bet-Knesset) dealing with the social, religious, legal, and economic
activities of the community.
The tastes and inclinations of each and every community or
organization, governed all the positions of the local synagogue/temple.
Including but not limited to the physical, communal, socical, cultural and
As a communal institution, the synagogue/temple was
all-inclusive. The entire gamut of communal needs was met within the framework,
and in turn the synagogue/temple reflected the communities aspirations
(desires), in its physical appearance, functions, and leadership.
Neither Jewish tradition or law prescribes a specific place
of worship, or a required style of prayer. These have developed over time and place. The style and function of the
synagogues and the Jewish communities around the world reflect the realities of
geo-political and economic situations they found themselves in. This of course is the secret as to why the
Jewish people have survived all these many millennia. By not being tied to a country, where they
were not wanted. Or to a place, where they were not appreciated. Or to a house
of worship, (being Jewish, means you can
prayer any place you want). No need of a
Rabbi, or a choir. Of course if you are observant, the necessary quorum, ten
persons, are needed to have a formal service. The Jewish people were able to
survive revolutions, upheavals, Kings, zealots, hell bent on their
destruction. With fiddle, a few kopeks,
the Jewish people secure in their faith, were able to change, evolve, react,
and morph, thereby outlive all those other peoples who disappeared. All those who were too structured, too rigid
in their faith, feeling, not willing to change with the times, and survive.
The Chicago Experience however, represents a totally
different situation. Where as, in most
major U. S. cities, the indigenous Jewish population has tended to stay in
pretty much the same portion of the city proper, or at least in the general
area. The Jewish population had to move
through what I would call the “economic migration”. This term meaning, rather
than stay in a familiar area of the city, i.e. Maxwell Street Area, Lawndale,
South Shore, the Jewish population in these areas seeing a change occurring,
and not much to their liking, literally pick-up, pack-up, and leave
en mass to more (usually) affluent neighborhoods in the city. The Jewish people
of Chicago, in theory as well as
practice mirrored their European ancestors and contemporaries in their
migration from one neighborhood to another. As if they were leaving a shtetel town, looking for Valhalla
in the new world.
To contribute information to Packers research, contact him at (847) 808-8488.