Difference Between the Catholic Church & the Jewish Synagogue

A synagogue is designed to facilitate individual study and community prayer.
... Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

The Catholic Church and the Jewish synagogue are both places of worship and prayer, and both are home to their respective religious communities. For the individual, the church and the synagogue have similar meanings and functions. However, as a whole, these houses of worship are different in a number of ways.

1 Structure

Synagogues are, for the most part, independent community organizations. Each building is funded by a community of Jews, and there is no central authority that governs this house of worship. However, synagogues are run by a board of directors, usually lay people who established the synagogue. These individuals are responsible for managing the synagogue, scheduling activities and hiring a rabbi and chazzan, or cantor. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has a hierarchical structure and a central authority. Before a Catholic church is built, approval from the pope and a local diocese must be received. In addition, each Catholic church is primarily funded by a collective fund managed by the pope.

2 Functions

In addition to being a place for community worship, a Jewish synagogue is a house of study. Most synagogues have a well-stocked library of Jewish religious texts for members to use for individual study. A synagogue also functions as a social welfare agency, by collecting and dispensing resources to give to the poor in the community. The Catholic Church also facilitates religious learning, but religious study is only done in groups rather than individually. In addition, the central authority of all Catholic churches is responsible for the implementation of community involvement and the collecting of resources for the needy, since individual churches do not have complete control over finances.

3 Sacraments

A Jewish synagogue does not allow the most of the sacraments commonly performed in the Catholic church. The church follows all seven sacraments of Christ: Baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, reconciliation, holy orders and marriage ceremonies. With the exception of marriage ceremonies, Jewish synagogues do not participate in any of these sacraments.

4 Religious Artwork and Artifacts

Inside a Jewish synagogue and a Catholic church, there are many differences. Synagogues typically have items that have a rich history and important religious meanings. For example, all synagogues have an ark that holds a Torah. The ark is placed in such a way in each synagogue that worshipers face the direction of Jerusalem. Another religious items include an Eternal Light, representing God's eternal watchfulness.

Catholic churches have no guidelines or requirements for religious artwork. It is common for a large cross to be displayed in the sanctuary, and paintings, stained glass windows and flowers are common in many churches.

Michelle Lee has been writing on the topics of culture and society since 2010. She has published articles in scholarly journals, such as "Social Problems" and the "Journal of Sociology," and also written articles for web-based companies. Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in ethnic, gender and labor studies from the University of Washington.