Entering a Synagogue

Tips for the novice shul-goer.

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The tallit (and/or tefillin) can be put on either before entering the room or when you get to your seat (the latter is usually the case with tefillin).The kippah is put on before entering the room.

Where to Sit

In most synagogues you can sit wherever you like. If you are there for a simha--joyous occasion--such as a bar/bat mitzvah, an usher may show you to the area where the family and relations are sitting.

If it is an Or­thodox synagogue, remember that men and women sit in separate areas.

In a few synagogues the regular members have customary seats. Sometimes there are seat plaques to indicate such seats; at other times you just have to step (sit) carefully. Often you will be told which areas are open territory The eastern wall (the wall with the ark) is a place of honor in old-style synagogues, and in general you shouldn't just wander over and sit down there.

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Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

Michael Strassfeld is the rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Manhattan, co-author of The First Jewish Catalog, The Second Jewish Catalog, A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah, and author of The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary.

Sharon M. Strassfeld is co-author of the Jewish Catalog series.