Welcome to the WJCC's Beth El Synagogue
continuing 3,000 years of tradition
"וַאֲהַבְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הַגֵּ֑ר כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃"
"And you shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt"
We warmly welcome
non-Jewish visitors to our synagogue; whether you have an interest in interfaith or finding out more about Judaism.
Synagogue services are very different to other faith services and this guide will help prepare you for what to expect.
Judaism is a non-proselyting religion and we respect your own path in life. We are very happy to inform you about our own traditions and history.
Before you visit
Contact our office at least a week before you intend to visit – we’ll need to know who you are and your interest in visiting and will try to have someone sit with you to explain the services. We’ll also need your:
Address (back home and where you’re staying in New Zealand).
Phone number (here in New Zealand).
Photo or scan of photo ID (which you’ll need to bring when visiting).
Famliarise yourself with the tips below before visiting.
You may also wish to read about the history of the Wellington Jewish community as well.
Coming to services
Jewish services are longer than you might expect. It’s usually best to time your arrival for the Torah service on Shabbat or festivals – the Torah service usually starts around half an hour after the start of services.
Wear modest clothing and men should cover their heads. Men can wear a hat to cover their heads or borrow a yarmulke or kippah (skullcap) inside the synagogue.
Don’t bring any food or drink.
Turn off electronic devices and don’t use phones, cameras, tablets, writing pens/pencils while at the Centre – we don’t use electronic devices on Shabbat or festivals as they would disrupt these days of rest.
Bring photo ID and be prepared to show any bags – you may be asked to show photo ID and show the contents of any bags on arrival.
Read our introduction to Jewish services Shabbat services here.
Men and women are seated separately as was the custom in the Temple in Jerusalem with large gatherings. For services in the Van Staveren Room where evening services are usually held, women sit on the near side by the entrance and men sit on the far side of the room. For services in the main Beth El synagogue where morning services are usually held, men sit downstairs on the left and women downstairs on the right and also in the entire upstairs.
You may sit in any free seat – but be prepared to move if you’ve sat in a member’s seat and they arrive after you.
Stand when the entire congregation is standing. This isn’t always obvious as congregants may be at different stages of the service and may be following different customs.
Avoid disruptions – such as walking or talking – when the Torah is being read, during kaddish, or during kedushah. A member can let you know when this is.
Avoid interrupting someone while they are concentrating on prayers – although you will notice that there is more conversation during services than in other faiths.
There is usually a kiddush (a light spread, or a larger meal in honor of a festive occasion) after services which visitors are welcome to attend. Please wait for the blessings before food (usually led by the Rabbi) before eating or drinking.
Financial contributions towards the kiddush are appreciated but should be made before or after Shabbat (for example, through online donation) as money cannot be handled during Shabbat or a festival.