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Ideally, in ancient times synagogues were located near a natural water source, convenient for ritual immersion. Historically, a Mikveh or Jewish ritual bath may be found under or near a synagogue, but this is not necessarily the case especially in modern times, despite the high priority accorded it in Jewish law.

Historically, other institutions could be found in the vicinity of synagogues such as the Bet Midrash or study house. Today, the Bet HaMidrash often doubles up as an additional prayer room for weekday or winter services. The Yeshivah (Scola Judaeorum in Latin), the Talmudical college, which was a distinct institution, may also be located near the synagogue, as too in Ashkenazi Europe was the Tanzhaus (communal/wedding hall).

From the 19th century synagogues became larger and more complex buildings. In addition to the Bet HaMidrash, and perhaps schoolrooms, either upstairs or in the basementGlossary Term, a typical building would include cloakrooms, vestry, offices and a kitchen. Sometimes a minister's and/or caretaker's house was integrated into the design or built next door. Often, for budgetary reasons, ancillary spaces, such as communal halls, were built later than the main synagogue rather than forming part of an original integrated design.

Large synagogues often have a Succah. This is a temporary "booth" used on the festival of Succot ("Tabernacles"). The Succah may take the form of an outhouse, consisting of a few posts or poles, or a hut with a removable roof, or even a room inside the synagogue complex with a skylight that can be opened to the heavens.

In the late 20th century the concept of a Jewish community centre with multi-functional spaces became popular. Prayer halls with moveable chairs, partitions and even Arks, can be found today, a fashion imported from the United States of America.



Lowest, subordinate storey; hence the lowest part of a classical elevation, below the piano nobile or principal storey.