The Jewish Festival of Lights, commonly known as Hannukah, is celebrated with 8 nights of prayer, family, games, and festive foods. The holiday commemorates the story of the Maccabees, a band of Hebrew soldiers who, after a long battle, reclaimed their temple from Greek occupiers. The menorah, the candelabra that holds 8 candles with one for lighting, symbolizes the oil found in the temple. It should have only been enough to give light for one night. Instead, in what was considered a miracle, it lasted eight. In celebration of Hanukkah, let’s take a look at some of the oldest synagogues you can visit today!
Ramban Synagogue (Jerusalem, Israel)
Originally founded by Nachmanides, the Ramban Synagogue was established in 1267 in an effort to rebuild the Jewish community. At 72 years old, he chose a ruined house on Mount Zion to reconstruct into a synagogue. In only three weeks, it was ready for use – just in time for Rosh Hashanah. Ramban was closed in the 16th century under Turkish rule. Over the years, the building was converted into an academy, a home, a mosque, a flour mill, and even a cheese factory. Today it is used for worship by the Ashkenazi (German Jewish) community.
Staronova Synagoga (Prague, Czech Republic)
Literally meaning “Old-New”, the Staronova Synagoga is the oldest continually used synagogue in Europe. Originally constructed in the 13th century, it was “New” – until the 16th century when a growing Jewish community began building other synagogues in the town. It’s famous for its notable medieval design, large saddle roof, and Gothic gables. Legend has it that a Golem guarded its attic. So, if you want a unique Hanukkah experience, you should find cheap flight deals in December and you’ll be there just in time for the holidays!
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Touro Synagogue (Rhode Island, U.S.)
The first Jewish immigrants to Rhode Island came to Newport from Barbados in 1658. There were only fifteen families to start, and it was not too long before they realized they would a proper site for a Jewish cemetery. The land for this was purchased in 1677, but construction on Touro was not started until 1759 when the community had grown substantially. Touro Synagogue was designed by Peter Harrison who, though having no experience with traditional Jewish structures, was able to create an elegant building. It stands as a proud landmark and the first Jewish synagogue in New England.
Have you visited any other synagogues around the world? Tell us about it in the comments!