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The ark in a synagogue is almost always positioned in such a way such that those who face it are facing towards Jerusalem.
In the post-war era, synagogue architecture abandoned historicist styles for modernism.
The earliest archaeological evidence for the existence of very early synagogues comes from Egypt, where stone synagogue dedication inscriptions dating from the 3rd century BCE prove that synagogues existed by that date. Synagogues have been constructed by ancient Jewish kings, by wealthy patrons, as part of a wide range of human institutions including secular educational institutions, governments, and hotels, by the entire community of Jews living in a particular place, or by sub-groups of Jews arrayed according to occupation, ethnicity (i.e.
the Sephardic, Polish or Persian Jews of a town), style of religious observance (i.e., a Reform or an Orthodox synagogue), or by the followers of a particular rabbi.
Historically, synagogues were built in the prevailing architectural style of their time and place.
Thus, the synagogue in Kaifeng, China looked very like Chinese temples of that region and era, with its outer wall and open garden in which several buildings were arranged.
Synagogues have a large place for prayer (the main sanctuary), and may also have smaller rooms for study and sometimes a social hall and offices.