Page created by John Berman: 2 August 2004
Page reformatted by David Shulman: January 2006 and subsequently expanded
Latest revision or update: 8 February 2016

Definitions and Explanations of Terms
used in connection with Congregation Data



There are different laws relating to the registration of marriages performed in synagogues (or elsewhere, pursuant to Jewish rites), depending on which area relevant Region of the British Isles:

The following relates to  England and Wales.

The Registrar General of the Office of National Statistics publishes an 'Official List' each year. This includes all synagogues that are "Certified to the Registrar General pursuant to Section 67 (A-D) of the Marriage Acts 1949, as amended".

The certification is undertaken by:

A - Board of Deputies of British Jews for all synagogues that are not affiliated to the Reform or Progressive Movements.

B - West London Synagogue of British Jews for synagogues that are within the Reform Movement (or members of Reform Judaism - formerly the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain), ONE OR OTHER.

C - Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood, London, for Liberal and Progressive Synagogues.

The 1949 Act states that Jewish marriages can only take place with both spouses being Jewish. Since 1837, when registration began, Jewish marriages can to take place in any location under the auspices of a certified synagogue. The overall conduct and certification of marriages is the responsibility of the Marriage Secretaries that have been notified and hence approved by the Registrar General. Prior to the Wedding ceremony, Notice of Marriage is given and made public at the Local Register Office.

Worship Number -  This is given by the Registrar General for England and Wales when a place of worship is registered. This is not compulsory. There have been some number changes for certain synagogues.




Most synagogues in the Greater London area are affiliated to one or other of the groups mentioned below. However, outside London, only non-orthodox synagogues (Masorti, Reform and Liberal) are generally affiliated.

The principal groups are:

Assembly of Masorti Synagogues (See Listing of Masorti Synagogues)


Congregations "committed to Halachah in the light of modern scholarship", sometimes referred to as Conservative congregations


Federation of Synagogues (See Listing of Federation Synagogues)


Orthodox congregations. Created, in 1887, initially as a grouping of minor synagogues or "chevrot", and at first known as the Federation of Minor Synagogues.

Federation Synagogues may be either constituent synagogues or affiliated synagogues.


Liberal Judaism (See Listing of Synagogues in the Liberal Judaism Movement)


Formerly the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogue

Liberal congregations. Congregations within the Liberal Judaism may be either constituent synagogues or associated communities.


Reform Judaism  (See Listing of Synagogues in the Reform Judaism Movement)


Formerly the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain

Reform congregations. Congregations within the Reform Synagogue network may be either constituent synagogues or associated communities. 


Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation (See Listing of constituent congregations)


Sephardi congregations

See also  Listing of other Sephardi and Eastern Ritual congregations


Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC or Adath) (See Listing of UOHC Synagogues)

Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox congregations


United Synagogue (See Listing of United Synagogue Congregations)


Orthodox congregations. Synagogue within the United Synagogue network currently may generally be described either as member synagogues (previously called constituent synagogues) or affiliated synagogues.  Previous categories included district synagogues (a half-way stage between affiliated and constituent, all of which became member synagogues in about 1976) and associated synagogues (a scheme that existed between 1902 and 1948).  (Currently, the Western Marble Arch Synagogue has a special status described as an associate synagogue.) 

In addition, in light of  needs during the World War II, due primarily to the evacuation of many of the inhabitants of London to outlying regions, the United Synagogue established 22 new congregations, known as Membership Groups, primarily in the home counties and southern England. A number of these progressed to become full members of the United Synagogue.


Many synagogues are not affiliated to any group. In these cases, details might only be provided in relation to their practices and beliefs e.g. Orthodox, Reform (See Listing of Independent Congregations),




Ashkenazi - Originally used to describe the Jews of Medieval Germany and Northern France (on the strength of a Talmudic passage, the word "Askenaz" is identified with Germany) or their descendants. Now generally used to describe the Jews of Central or Eastern European origin and their ritual. 

The order and type of service ("nusach") may differ slightly in Ashkenazi synagogues. The one used by the vast majority of Ashkenazi synagogues in the UK is known as Nusach Ashkenaz.  Another, Nusach Ari (or Ha'Ari) is used by a number of old or Chassidic congregations. It was compiled by Rabbi Isaac Luria in the sixteenth century.  A third, Nusach Sefard, which is close to Nusach Ari, is the Ashkenazi nusach most widespread in Israel, and is used by a number of synagogues, including several established in the UK by Israelis, as well as by several old congregations. 

Sephardi - Used originally to describe the Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin ("Spharad" is the Hebrew word for Spain) or their descendants. Often loosely used also to include all Jews of oriental origin and their ritual, other than the Yemenites., although the term Edot HaMizrach would be a preferable term to describe all Jews of oriental origin (including Yemenites).

Temani (Yemenite) - Jews from the Yemen (genearally excluding Aden). Although often included as Sephardi, their ritual differs considerably from that of the Sephardi Jews, and they themselves are divided between Nusach Baladi and Nusach Shami, the latter having, to some extent, adopted many Sephardi rites.



(The spelling of many of these terms vary, depending on how the same have been transliterated into English.)

ark - an ornamental closet, which contains the Torah scrolls.

aron kodesh - the Hebrew term for the ark.

ba'alei batim - a term used, generally until the mid nineteenth century, to describe the full members of a congregation, namely those with voting rights and eligibility for executive office.

bar mitzvah - the confirmation ceremony and celebrations for a boy, usually at the age of thirteen.

bat mitzvah - the confirmation celebrations for a girl, usually at the age of twelve.

beit knesset - the Hebrew word for synagogue.  (plural - beitai knesset)

beth din - a Jewish religious court of law.

beth hamedrash - Hebrew for "house of study", a colloquial term often used in Yiddish for a synogogue, and, in many cases, adopted by congregations in the West, generally by those of a more orthodox persuasion. Can also be used for a room within a synagogue building used for study and small prayer meetings.

bima - a raised platform, usually centrally located, in the synagogue, from which the principal services are conducted.

Chanukah - the Jewish Festival of Lights (or Dedication), occuring in or about the month of December, and lasting eight days. on which the lights of the nine pronged candelabrum are kindled It commemorates the victory of the Jewish Maccabeans over the Syrian-Greek Seleucid regime in 167-160 BCE.

cheder - the Hebrew religious school for children, usually attended in the evening and on Sundays, in addition to their regular school. (The word actially means "room" in Hebrew.)

chevra - a small congregation, frequently established by Jews of Eastern European origin. (plural - chevrot)

Chevra Kadisha - Burial Society

Chovevei Zion - one of the earliest Zionist Mmovements, originating in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century.

chupa - the canopy under which the Jewish wedding ceremony takes place.

dayan - a judge in a Beth Din. (plural - dayanim)

kaddish - a prayer most frequently recited following the death or on the anniversary of the death, by a near relative of the deceased.

kashrut - the observance of food regulations ensuring that the food to be consumed is "kosher", namely it complies with Jewish dietary laws.

kahilla - the Hebrew word for congregation (plural - kahillot)

kiddush - the santification ceremony, usually over wine, before a Sabbath or Festival meal. (plural - kaddishim)

Kol Nidre - the opening words of the prayer that introduces the service on the Eve of Yom Kippur.

levoya - the Hebrew and Yiddish word for funeral.

matza - the unleavened bread, usually eaten during the festival of Pesach.

mechitza - a partition or curtain separating women congregants from the men in the synagogue.

mezuzah - a case, containg specific holy writing, attached to the doorposts and the entrance to romms in Jewish homes, synagogues and othe buildings where Jews live or work. (plural - mezuzot)

mikvah - the Jewish ritual bath.

minyan - the quorum of at least ten Jewish men or boys (of at least 13 years of age) required for communal Jewish prayer. The term is also sometimes used to describe a small congregation that meets regularly for prayer. (plural - minyanim)

mohel - a person trained to perform the ritual act of circumcision according to the Jewish faith. (plural - mohelim)

ner tamid - the eternal lightthat hangs over the Ark in the synagogue.

parochet - the decorative curtain placed in front of the doors to the ark or, in some instances, inside the doors.

Pesach - the Jewish festival of Passover (in or about April), which commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

Purim - the Jewish festival (in or about March) at which the Book of Esther is read, commemorating the saving of the Jews in the Persian Empire from the intended massacre planned by the wicked Haman.

rav - shortened form of the word "rabbi".

Rosh Chodesh - the new Jewish month, when special prayers are recited, lasting one or two days.

Rosh Hashannah - the Jewish New Year (in or about September), lasting two days.

sefer torah - the Scroll of the Law, (containing the five Books of Moses). (plural - sifrei torah).

selichot - the penitential prayers said on the lead-up to Yom Kippur and on other Fast days.

Shavuot - the Jewish Festival of Weeks (in or about May/June, seven weeks from Pesach), commemorating the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.

shochet - ritual slaughterer of animals.

shnoddering - making a (public) offereing in the synagogue in return for the honour of being caled up on the reading of the Torah.

shamas - beadle in the synagogue.

shul - the Yiddish word for synagogue.

succah - the tabernacles or booths, built for the Festival of Succot, in which Jews traditionally eat, and some sleep, throughout the course of the festival.

Succot - the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles, commemorating the forty years of wandering by the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt.

Tisha b'Av - the 9th of the month of Av, a Fast day that commemorates the destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 CE, as well as certain other catstrophies that have befallen the Jewish people.

yahrzeit - the anniversary of a person's death, according to the Hewbrew calender

yeshivah - an academy of advanced Jewish religious study. (plural - yeshivot)

Yom Ha'atzmaut - Israel's Independence Day.

Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Day, commemorating the murder of six millions Jews by the Nazis and their allies.

Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement., the most solemn Fast day, which takes place on the tenth day of Ten Days Repentence (which start with Rosh Hashanah.)





Explanation of the Jewish Calendar




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