Looking at Buildings

Building Types


The Women’s Section

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Synagogues, Detail of Ladies Entrance

In the traditional synagogue the sexes are separated. There is no conclusive physical evidence that a women's sectionGlossary Term (Ezrat Nashim) existed in synagogues before the Middle Ages but there was a "women's court" in the Jerusalem Temple. With the spread of enlightenment ideas in the 19th century more space was set aside for women in the synagogue and they became more visible.

Traditionally, the women's sectionGlossary Term may be either a screened-off area at the back of the main hall, an upstairs galleryGlossary Term or even a separate room. Upstairs galleries are usually situated at the west end over the vestibule or on three sides facing the ArkGlossary Term. The screenGlossary Term (Mehitzah) may take the form of an open-work metal grille, wooden lattice or net curtain, the height and thickness of which is determined by the orthodoxy of the congregation. In more liberal congregations it may merely be a symbolic railGlossary Term to the balcony.

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West London Synagogue

The 19th century German Reformers eventually abolished separate seating, but this development was not immediately taken up in Britain. The West London Synagogue was built in 1870 with a galleryGlossary Term which was used only by women well into the 20th century.



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


A long room or passage; an upper storey above the aisles of a church, looking through arches to the nave; a balcony or mezzanine overlooking the main interior space of a building; or an external walkway.


A horizontal member in panelling or in a timber-framed wall. See also edge rail, plate rail (railways).


In a medieval church, usually set at the entry to the chancel. A parclose screen separates a chapel from the rest of the church. A rood screen was placed below a representation of the Crucifixion (called a rood).


Two-dimensional representation of a building, moulding etc., revealed by cutting across it.