Looking at Buildings

Building Types


The Bimah or Tevah

The other focal point of the synagogue is the Bimah or reader's platform. On the Sabbath (Shabbat), festivals and during some weekday services, the scrolls are taken out of the ArkGlossary Term to the Bimah from where the Torah is read in public to the congregation. The Bimah, like the ArkGlossary Term, may be simply or lavishly treated. It may be constructed of timber or stone, frequently with a metalwork balustrade. In Britain, it is generally rectangular in form, with stairs accessing it from the sides or, sometimes, from the rear.

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Bevis Marks Synagogue, London

Traditionally, the Bimah, which like the ArkGlossary Term is elevated, is placed in the centre of the space. However, this is not invariably the case. There is no archaeologicalGlossary Term evidence for the position of the Bimah, nor even for the existence of a Bimah, before the Middle Ages. In Ashkenazi (Central and East European, German and Yiddish speaking)communities the Bimah is in the centre - as in the majority of congregations in the UK. However, in the Sephardi (Spanish & Portuguese)tradition, where it is known as the Tevah, it is placed towards the west end, for example in Britain's oldest synagogue, Bevis Marks, London (1701).

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Dohany Temple, Budapest

Synagogues built according to the principles of the German Reform movement were rearranged with a combined ArkGlossary Term, Bimah and pulpitGlossary Term, (the latter an innovation based on church practice), all facing the congregation on the E wall. A good example is that in the Dohany Temple, Budapest. This spread to Britain and was widely adopted, even by some Orthodox congregations.



In architecture, the accurate detailed use of a revived style, e.g. Greek or Gothic; hence archaeologically correct.


Chest or cupboard housing the tables of Jewish law in a synagogue.


Raised and enclosed platform for the preaching of sermons. Three-decker: with reading desk below and clerk’s desk below that. Two-decker: as above, minus the clerks’ desk.