Oldest Synagogues in the World
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Oldest Synagogues in the World
The Old Synagogue in Erfurt, Germany, portions of which date from c.1100
The Santa María la Blanca synagogue was built in Toledo, Spain in 1190.
The Old New Synagogue in Prague, Bohemia (Czech Republic), the oldest synagogue in continuous use, built around 1270 compares similarly with the Ramban synagogue in Safed, modern Israel.

Synagogues may be considered "oldest" based on different criteria. Many very old synagogues have been discovered in archaeological digs. Some synagogues have been destroyed and rebuilt several times on the same site, so while the site or congregation may be ancient, the building may be modern. Still other very old synagogue buildings exist, but have been used for many centuries as churches, mosques, or for other purposes. Some very old synagogues have been in continuous use as synagogues for many centuries.


Image-Diaspora synagogues in Antiquity.png
  • The oldest evidence of the presence of synagogue buildings are found in middle and lower Egypt in the 3rd century BCE on Elephantine island. They consist of two synagogue dedication inscription stones and a reference to a synagogue in a papyrus letter dated to 218 BCE.[1][2]
  • The oldest synagogue building yet uncovered by archaeologists is the Delos Synagogue, a possibly Samaritan synagogue that dates from at 150 to 128 BCE, or earlier, and is located on the island of Delos, Greece.[3][4]
  • The excavated Jericho synagogue may be the oldest, securely dated, mainstream Jewish synagogue in the world, although the identification of the remains as a synagogue is not certain. It was built between 70 and 50 BCE as part of a royal winter palace complex near Jericho.[5]
  • Dura-Europos synagogue, Dura-Europos, Syria.

Standing buildings

According to legend, el Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia was first built in 586 BCE or 70 CE, which would make it the oldest synagogue still standing and in continuous use in the world.[6][7] Two of the claimants to be the oldest structures still standing that were built as synagogues are the Old Synagogue in Erfurt, Germany, which was built c. 1100[8][9] and the Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca in Toledo, Spain, which was built in 1190. However, neither has been used as a synagogue for centuries.

The oldest active synagogue in the world is the Old New Synagogue of Prague in the Czech Republic, built in 1270s. The Ben Ezra Synagogue of Cairo has the honor of being the longest-serving synagogue in the world, having continuously served as one from 1025 until the mid 20th century. Owing to the migration of nearly all of Egypt's Jews to Israel (only 18 remained as of 2016[]), today the monument functions as a museum.

By country



  • Synagogue of Tlemcen was built around 1392 when Rabbi Ephraim Alnaqua, a Spanish refugee who was the son of the author of Menorah, settled in Agadir, he obtained permission for Jews to settle in the city of Tlemcen, where he built a synagogue.


  • Stone synagogue dedication inscriptions stones found in middle and lower Egypt (see above), and dating from the 3rd century BCE, are the oldest synagogue fragments found anywhere in the World.



  • El Ghriba synagogue, according to legend, the construction of the synagogue goes back to the High Priests' escape following the destruction of Solomon's Temple by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II in the year 586 BCE (or, alternately, the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE). The High Priests carried with them a door and a stone of the destroyed Temple. Thus the synagogue links the Jewish diaspora to the "sole sanctuary of Judaism".[7] In modern times, the local Jews are distinguished by their dress, which includes a black band around their pants, which signifies the destruction of the Temple.[10]

South Africa

  • The Gardens Shul, established 1841, is the oldest congregation in South Africa. Its 1863 building, which is still standing, may be the oldest synagogue building in the country. Rabbi Osher Feldman is the Rabbi of the Gardens Shul.



  • In Herat, Afghanistan, the Yu Aw Synagogue still stands. There is no definitive date for the synagogue.[11]


  • In Kochi, in the South Indian state of Kerala, Paradesi Synagogue is believed to be built in 1568. It is the oldest Jewish synagogue in India that is still existing and in active use, although there are even older ones still existing but not in active use anymore.

The oldest of India's synagogue buildings can be found in the state of Kerala, where synagogue construction began during the medieval period. Whereas Kerala's first Jewish houses of prayer said to be from the eleventh through the 13th centuries perished long ago as a consequence of natural disasters, enemy attacks, or the abandonment of buildings when congregations shifted, as did the earliest confirmed synagogue in Kochangadi authenticated to 1344 by a surviving building inscription now found in the courtyard of the Paradesi synagogue in Kochi's Jew Town, those originating from the 16th and 17th centuries subsist. These extant synagogues, though altered over time, include not only the oldest found on the Indian subcontinent but in the British Commonwealth.

The consensus among historians based on a compilation of limited recorded history and a mélange of oral narratives is that first synagogues in Kerala were not built until the medieval period. Various Kerala Jews and the scholars who have studied the community believe that the earliest synagogues in the region date to the early 11th century. According to a narrative, a Kerala Jew by the name of Joseph Rabban who accepted on behalf of his community copper plates granting the local Jews a set of privileges by the Hindu King Bhaskara Ravi Varman was also given wood by his Highness for the erection of a synagogue around 1000. While no physical evidence of this and any other similar period building survives, study of the literature, Jewish folksongs, and narratives supports the notion that synagogues likely stood in Malabar Coast towns, places now within the modern-day State of Kerala, from this epoch. A portion of these medieval-period buildings perished when the Kerala Jews had to leave them behind under the threat of persecution by the Moors and the Portuguese or as a result of natural disasters. The balance was rebuilt as a consequence of naturally occurring or intentionally set fires, modernization efforts, or assorted other variables.[12]


  • A rabbi in the American army found an abandoned, dilapidated synagogue near Mosul dating back to the 13th century.[13] It is located two miles northeast of Mosul, across the Tigris River, in a city called Nineveh, the city to which the prophet Jonah was sent to preach repentance. The Nineveh Synagogue was constructed by Daud Ibn Hodaya al-Daudi, Exilarch of Mosul. There is record of a second synagogue in Mosul, as early as 990, when the Gaon of Sura, Semah ibn Yitzhak,[14] mentions "Sahl Aluf ibn Aluf our representative in Mosul", in 1170 Benjamin of Tudela notes that there are about 7,000 Jews in Mosul. In later years, when Petachiah of Regensburg visited Mosul, Nineveh was in ruins.[15]

Israel and Palestinian Territories

Ruins of the ancient synagogue of Kfar Bar'am in the Galilee

In Israel, archaeologists have uncovered many ruins of synagogues from 2000 or more years ago, placing them in the time before the 70 CE destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

  • Herodium - a synagogue from the 1st century was discovered in Herod's palace fortress at Herodium.[5]
  • Masada - the ruins of the small synagogue at the top of Masada is one of the most well-documented Second Temple Period synagogues.[16]
  • Magdala - also known as the Migdal Synagogue, this synagogue was discovered in 2009. One of the unique features of this synagogue, which is located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, is an intricately carved stone block that was found in the center of the main room.[17]
  • Modi'in - a synagogue dating to the second century BCE was discovered between Modi'in and Latrun.[16]
  • Qiryat Sefer/Modi'in Illit synagogue (1st century BCE) - Israeli archaeologist Yitzhak Magen claimed in 1995 to have excavated a small first-century BCE synagogue at Modi'in Illit/Qiryat Sefer, at a site known in Arabic as Khirbet Badd 'Isa.[18][19][20]

Other ancient post-70 CE synagogues are:

  • The excavated Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho dates to the late 6th or early 7th century, and is frequented on the beginning of every Hebrew calendar month for prayers and services.
  • A large 6th-century synagogue with a mosaic tile floor depicting King David was discovered in Gaza. An inscription states that the floor was donated in 508-509 CE by two merchant brothers.[21]
  • Jerusalem - there are synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem built over the ruins of far older synagogues, which were destroyed by non-Jewish rulers of the city.
    • The Karaite Synagogue in Jerusalem is the oldest of Jerusalem's active synagogues, having been built in the 8th century. It was destroyed by the Crusaders in 1099 and Jews were not allowed to live in the city for 50 years. In 1187 Saladin restored the site to the Karaite Jews, who promptly rebuilt the synagogue. It has been active continuously since its foundation, except during the Crusades and Jordanian rule of the city (1948-1967). In 1967, the Israeli government returned the synagogue to the Karaite community, who finished renovating it in 1982.[]




The Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue in Rangoon (Yangon) was originally built in 1854.

Located between shops and traders, the synagogue is still operating for the small community of Burmese Jews who live in Rangoon.


  • The 3rd Century Dura-Europos synagogue established in 244 AD (CE) per dedicatory inscription on ceiling tile (though remodelled from an earlier synagogue)
  • The 4th Century Apamea on Orontes Synagogue established in 392 AD (CE) per dedicatory inscription on mosaic.
  • Jobar Synagogue, incorrectly described as "2,000 years old." The main hall is at least mediaeval. However, the shrine (or "hever" attributed to the Prophet Elijah) beneath the former prayer hall resembles other Late Antique catacombs 3rd -6th Century AD (CE).
  • Gamla - a synagogue was discovered near the city gate at Gamla, a site in the Golan northeast of the Sea of Galilee.[24] This city was destroyed by the Roman army in AD 67 and was never rebuilt.


  • Sardis Synagogue was built by Babylonian Jews who were invited to Sardis by Seleucid King Antiochus III (223-187 BCE). The Jews of Sardis are mentioned by Josephus Flavius in the 1st century CE, who refers to a decree of the Roman proquestor Lucius Antonius from the previous century (50-49 BCE): "Lucius Antonius, the son of Marcus, vice-quaestor, and vice-praetor, to the magistrates, senate, and people of the Sardians, sends greetings. Those Jews that are our fellow citizens of Rome came to me, and demonstrated that they had an assembly of their own, according to the laws of their forefathers, and this from the beginning, as also a place of their own, wherein they determined their suits and controversies with one another. Upon their petition therefore to me, that these might be lawful for them, I gave order that their privileges be preserved, and they be permitted to do accordingly." (Ant., XIV:10, 17) It is generally understood that "a place of their own" refers to the synagogue serving the local Jewish community of Sardis. Josephus Flavius also mentions the decree of Caius Norbanus Flaccus, a Roman proconsul during the reign of Augustus at the end of the 1st century BCE, who confirms the religious rights of the Jews of Sardis, including the right to send money to the Temple of Jerusalem. (Ant., XVI:6,6)[25][26][27][28]
  • Priene Synagogue, was found in the ancient city of Priene in Ionia.



Interior of the 13th-century Old New Synagogue of Prague. Built around 1270, it is the world's oldest active synagogue.
  • The oldest synagogue in Western Europe uncovered in an archaeological dig to date is the Ostia Synagogue in the ancient Roman port of Ostia, in Italy. The present building, of which partial walls and pillars set upright by archaeologists remain, dates from the 4th century. However, excavation revealed that it is on the site of an earlier synagogue dating from the middle of the 1st century CE, that is, from before the destruction of the Temple.[29]
  • The Ancient Synagogue of Barcelona, is a building from the 3rd or 4th century, when its function is unknown, and extended in the 13th, perhaps marking the start of its use as a synagogue. It has been described as the oldest synagogue in Europe. It was used as a synagogue until the massacre of the Jews in Barcelona in 1391, then used for other purposes until it was rediscovered and restored in the 1990s.[30][31][32]
  • The Köln Synagogue in Cologne, Germany has been excavated 2007/2012 and dates clearly pre Carolingian (bef. 780/90). There is at the moment some strong evidence that it dates back to the early 4th century when emperor Constantine in 321 issued a privilege for the Cologne Jews. This has been confirmed recently by the find of a rainwater mikveh of the 4th century inside the building complex.[33]
  • The Old Synagogue in Erfurt, Germany, which was partly built c.1100, is thought by some experts to be one of the oldest synagogue buildings still standing in Europe (most of it is 13th/14th century). It has been used as museum of Jewish history since 2009.[8][9]
  • Santa María la Blanca, built in Toledo, Spain in 1190, has long been regarded as the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. It was consecrated as a church upon the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the 15th century, but no major renovations were done. While still a consecrated church, it is no longer used for worship and is open as a museum.
  • The oldest active synagogue building in Europe is the Alteneu Shul (Old-New Synagogue) in Prague, Czech Republic, which dates from the 13th century (probably 1270). The Altneu Shul was the pulpit of the great Rabbi Yehuda Loew, (the Maharal), and his creation, the golem of Prague, is rumored to be hidden within the synagogue.
  • The Plymouth Synagogue of 1762, in Plymouth, England, is the oldest synagogue built by Ashkenazi Jews in the English speaking world.[34]


  • A 5th or 6th century synagogue has been discovered in the costal city of Saranda, Albania. Impressive remains of a 5th or 6th century AD synagogue have been uncovered in the coastal city of Saranda, Albania, which lies just opposite the Greek island of Corfu.

Albania's recent Synagogue was built around 1500 in Vlorë (in Italian, Valona) by a community of 609 Sephardic Jewish Families fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. The Vlorë Synagogue was destroyed during World War I and not rebuilt. Of historic note, in 1675, the Messianic pretender Sabbatai Zevi died in exile at Ulcinj, Montenegro, a nearby town without a Jewish population.[35]


  • The "Synagogue of St Stephens Parish" was built in Vienna around 1204; The first Jews lived in the area near the Seitenstettengasse; from around 1280, they also lived around the modern-day Judenplatz where they built another Synagogue around the same time. The center of Jewish cultural and religious life was located in this area of Vienna from the 13th to the 15th century, until the Vienna Gesera of 1420/21, when Albert V ordered the annihilation of the city's Jews. Proof exists of a Jewish presence in Vienna since 1194. The first named individual was Schlom, Duke Frederick I's Münzmeister (master of the mint).[36]
  • The Rossmuehl Synagogue was built in the early 1300s for the Jewish community of Korneuburg, a market town some 15 kilometers upriver from Vienna. Local Church authorities destroyed the previous synagogue after the Host Desecration of 1298 (the resulting pogrom saw 10 Jews burned alive). A clerical investigation revealed the Desecration accusation lacked evidence and was the result of an unlawful conspiracy. Moreover, local church authorities benefitted from the seizure of the murdered Jews property; notably the St. Augustine Monastery was built on the site of the former synagogue, where it stands to this day.

Some 100 meters NE of the town square, the Rossmuehl Synagogue served Korneuburg's Jewish community until the Expulsion of 1420. The property was converted to storage and various plans have been put forth to renovate the structure. Unfortunately, the Austrian Jewish Community (IKG) has shown no interest in assisting local groups and government agencies in the preservation of the structure, which is one of the oldest synagogues in Europe.


  • The Great Synagogue of Hrodna was built from 1576 to 1580 by Santi Gucci, who designed a Wooden synagogue at Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe's invitation.
  • Bychau Synagogue built at the beginning of 17th century.


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo Sephardic Old Synagogue built in 1587


  • The Dubrovnik Synagogue in Dubrovnik, Croatia is the second-oldest synagogue in Europe.[39] It is said to have been established in 1352, but gained legal status in the city in 1408.[40] Owned by the local Jewish community, the main floor still functions as a place of worship for Holy days and special occasions, but is now mainly a city museum which hosts numerous Jewish ritual items and centuries-old artifacts.
  • The Split Synagogue[41] was built in roughly 1500.[42] Located on ?idovski Prolaz, or the Jewish Passage, is the second oldest continuously operational Sephardic Synagogue in the world. It was built into the western wall of Diocletian's palace by Jews escaping the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. In 1573, a Jewish Cemetery was approved and built on Marjan Hill, which overlooks the city of Split. Jews arrived in Dalmatia, during the early centuries of the Christian era, with the conquering Roman armies. Romans established the city of Salona just behind Split, in the 1st Century, where Jewish traders and craftsmen settled. Archaeological excavations have discovered artifacts of Jewish origin dating from this period and clues to the existence of a Synagogue dating back to the time of Diocletian who was Roman Emperor from 284 to 305.[43]

Czech Republic

  • The Alteneu Shul (Old-New Synagogue) (see above), in Prague, in the Czech Republic, which dates from the 13th century (probably 1270), is the oldest active synagogue building in Europe.


The Great Synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark was built in 1833.


Entrance to the synagogue and gateway to the old Ghetto in Avignon
  • The Synagogue of Carpentras was built in 1367. Today, only the underground parts (mikveh, bakery, butcher) remain, as the synagogue was rebuilt in the 18th century. The current facade is from 1909.
  • The Synagogue of Lunéville, built in 1786.
  • Synagogue d'Avignon was built in 1846 on a former synagogue from 1221. In 1221, the Jewish community was transferred to an enclosed quarter in the parish of Saint-Pierre, around the Place Jerusalem. The Jewish ghetto was closed off by three doors (the only one of which remaining is the portal of the Calandre) and the inhabitants were under the protection of the pope. The Synagogue was built just after the move in 1221. The Jewish Quarter was originally northwest of the Place du Palais but was moved due to burnings and harassment.[44]
  • The Synagogue of Nancy. There was a Jewish community in the city in the Middle Ages. This synagogue was built between 1788-1861, its facade dates from 1935.


  • The Köln Synagogue (see above), in Cologne, Germany, excavated in 2007/2012, dates from pre-Carolingian times (before 780/90) most likely first half 4th century.
  • The Old Synagogue (see above), in Erfurt, Germany, which was partly built c. 1100, mostly 13th and 14th century, is thought by some experts to be one of the oldest synagogue building still standing in Europe.
  • The Worms Synagogue, also known as Rashi Shul, is an 11th-century synagogue located in Worms, Germany.


  • The Delos Synagogue (see above), a Samaritan synagogue on the island of Delos, Greece, is the oldest synagogue building yet uncovered by archaeologists anywhere in the World and dates from at 150 to 128 BCE, or earlier.
  • The Kahal Shalom Synagogue on Rhodes (1577) is the oldest surviving synagogue building in Greece.



  • Ireland's oldest active synagogue is Terenure Synagogue, Dublin, built in 1953.
  • The synagogue at 37 Adelaide Road, Dublin opened in 1892 and closed in 1999.[49]
  • A synagogue existed on Crane Lane, Dublin in 1700 and may have been established as early as the 1660s.[50]


The Scolanova Synagogue, Trani, Italy, built around 1200.

North Macedonia

  • The Polycharmos Synagogue, of Stobi, North Macedonia, was discovered in 1974; it was adjacent to a Christian church. The Synagogue site, itself, has an archaeological record of two (2) older Synagogues under the foundation of the Polycharmos Synagogue dating to the 4th century BCE[52]
  • The Bet Aharon Synagogue was built in 1366 then later renamed to "Kahal Kadosh D'Abasho" with the arrival of Sephardic Jews who displaced indigenous Romaniote Jews of the area. The Jewish community of Skopje outnumbered the non-Jewish Community by 1566[53]
  • The Sephardi Bet Ya?aqov Synagogue was built in the early 1900s then renamed "Qahal Qadosh de Ariba" (congregation on the mountaintop).[54][55][56][57][58]


  • The Portuguese Synagogue (Amsterdam) - on December 12, 1670, the Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam acquired the site to build a synagogue and construction work began on April 17, 1671, under architect Elias Bouwman. On August 2, 1675, the Esnoga was finished.



  • The Synagogue of Óbidos is located in the old Jewish Quarter and dates to the 7th century[] where a Jewish community was re-established after the Visigoths seized the village in the 5th century. Obidos was liberated in 1148, by the Jewish vizier, Yaish ibn Yahya; in return for its liberation King Afonso I Henriques rewarded Yaish ibn Yahya with a nearby town and anointed him "Lord of Unhos, Frielas and Aldeia dos Negros".
  • Synagogue of Tomar is located in the historic centre of the city of Tomar, and houses a small Jewish Museum. The synagogue of Tomar was built in 1460 by the thriving Jewish community of the town. Today, the museum holds Judaica, fine art, several medieval Jewish gravestones, important architectural fragments from other buildings, including an inscribed stone from 1307 believed to have come from the Lisbon Great Synagogue (destroyed in the earthquake of 1755) and a 13th-century inscribed stone from the medieval synagogue in Belmonte.



14th century Córdoba Synagogue



  • The Maribor Synagogue (a/k/a Marburg Synagogue), first mentioned in 1354, was built in around the year 1300. Located at ?idovska ulica 4 in the Jewish Square ?idovski trg, it is among some of the oldest still standing Synagogues in Europe.[60] The first documented evidence of a Jewish presence in Slovenia dates to the 13th century when Yiddish and Italian-speaking Jews migrated south from Austria.[61]
    The Maribor Synagogue was built into the defensive city walls of Maribor.


United Kingdom

  • Jew's Court, Lincoln, Has been claimed as an early synagogue, but it is very unlikely that any of the building is earlier than the 15th or 16th.centuries. It has always been used for domestic or commercial purposes. [62]
  • Bevis Marks Synagogue in London, built in 1701 is the oldest synagogue building in the United Kingdom still in use.
  • The Plymouth Synagogue (see above), built in 1762, is the oldest surviving Ashkenazi synagogue in continuous use in the English speaking world.
  • Garnethill Synagogue, built 1879-81, is the oldest synagogue in Scotland.

North America

The Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, is the oldest Jewish house of worship in North America that is still standing. It was built in 1759 for the Jeshuat Israel congregation, which was established in 1658.


United States

  • Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City, 1654, is the oldest congregation in the United States, although its present building dates from 1897.
  • Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, the building of which commenced in 1759, is the United States' oldest synagogue and began services in the current building in the year 1763; the congregation was founded in 1658.
  • Congregation Talmud Torah Adereth El (located on East 29th Street in Manhattan) has been operating services from that location since 1863. The congregation was founded in 1857. It has the distinction of being the oldest synagogue in New York running services from the same location.
  • Congregation Mickve Israel of Savannah, Georgia was organized in 1733 by Sephardic Jews. The current 1878 Neo-Gothic building is unique in its cross-shaped floor plan.
  • Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina was founded in 1749 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the United States. The present building dates to 1840 and was constructed after the original structure was destroyed in the fire of 1838.

South America and Caribbean

The Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue, located in Recife stands on the site of the earliest synagogue in the Americas.

Recife, Brazil

  • The Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue in Recife, Brazil, erected in 1636, was the first synagogue erected in the Americas. Its foundations have been recently discovered, and the 20th-century buildings on the site have been altered to resemble a 17th-century Dutch synagogue.


  • The first synagogue, a Sephardic Synagogue, was built in Port Royal in approximately 1646, but was destroyed during the earthquake of 1692. Another Synagogue, Neveh Shalom Synagogue, was established on Spanish Town's Monk Street in 1704, but today lies largely in ruins. The only synagogue still in current use, Shaare Shamayim in Kingston, was built in 1912.



  • Synagogue in Aldea San Gregorio, Entre Ríos. Built in 1893, today abandoned.


  • Wooden, later brick synagogue Beracha ve Shalom ("Blessings and Peace") at Jodensavanne, Suriname, built between 1665 and 1671. Destroyed in 1832, ruins still exist.
  • Neveh Shalom Synagogue, erection first completed in 1723 and rebuilt in 1842 or 1843, currently the only synagogue in use in Suriname.


  • The Jewish community was founded in 1659. The Curaçao synagogue, congregation Mikvé Israel-Emanuel, built in 1732. It is the oldest synagogue still in use today in the Americas.[] When Jews were expelled from the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe the number of Jews in Curaçao increased and by 1780 reached 2,000, more than half of the white population. The Curaçao community became the "mother community" of The Americas and assisted other communities in the area, mainly in Suriname and St. Eustatius. It also financed the construction of the first synagogues in New York and Newport.[]

Sint Eustatius

  • The Honen Dalim Synagogue, Oranjestad, Sint Eustatius, built in 1739, fallen into ruins after the economy of the island collapsed and the Jews started to leave the island from 1795 to the point where there was no Jewish community left. Partially restored in 2001.

St Thomas - United States Virgin Islands

See also


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