The building is designed on traditional lines facing the site of the ancient Israelite Temple in Jerusalem, rebuilt by Herod in 19 BCE and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Most of the features of the synagogue reflect elements of the Temple, a tradition that has remained unbroken since the dispersion of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.
The main features are:
Ner Tamid (the eternal light) – above the Ark, this remains permanently lit as a remembrance of the eternal light in the Temple.
Aron Kodesh (the Holy Ark) – not to be confused with Noah’s Ark (a boat) or the Ark of the Covenant, which the Children of Israel carried during their forty years in the desert and which preceded the building of the first Temple by Solomon; this Ark houses the Scrolls of the Law (in Hebrew, Sifrei Torah), each handwritten in Hebrew on parchment by a skilled scribe.
Bimah (the raised platform) – from where the leader of the service leads the congregation in prayer.
Menorah (candelabra) – the eight branched menorah is used during Hanukah; the one in the synagogue is of 17 Century Dutch origin, with an 18 Century brass base, probably made in Bristol.
Prayer for the Royal Family – mounted on the wall adjacent to the Aron Kodesh, this wooden panel originally came from Sir Moses Montefiore’s Synagogue in Ramsgate; it is a long established custom in British synagogues to recite a prayer for the well-being of the Royal Family.