Looking at Buildings

Home | Types | Styles | Construction | Cities | Timeline | Glossary | Reference | Using the Site | About LAB

This is document 'Seating', within the 'Building Types' section of the website. 
See a list of all the pages in this section, or look at the sitemap.


The seating provided in the synagogue may be either chairs or fixed pews. Movable furniture is probably better suited to the Jewish mode of prayer in which the worshipper is not always rooted to the spot. Fixed pews became fashionable in European synagogues from the 19th century, largely following church practice. Reform "Temples" adopted the principle of placing the pews facing the combined ArkGlossary Term and Bimah at the front of the hall, as in a church.

Bevis Marks Synagogue, London

In traditional synagogues, however, the men's seating generally surrounds the Bimah. In Sephardi synagogues moveable benches are usually placed parallel with the long walls, N-S, facing the Bimah but at right angles to the ArkGlossary Term. In Ashkenazi synagogues, extra rows are often placed behind the Bimah and sometimes also in front. In Oriental communities, the men may sit on ledges around the walls, much as they did in the synagogues of the ancient world. In most synagogues, seats of honour are reserved for the rabbi, officials and patrons along the E wall, flanking the ArkGlossary Term, sometimes facing the congregation or in a special "wardens' box" usually at the front of the Bimah and often built integral with it.