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I am seeking sources related to the origin of the physical structure of a shul. Specifically:

  • Placement of the ark in the front of the shul.
  • Torah reader's bimah - I've seen 3 arrangements: Most Ashkenazi shuls have the bimah in the middle Sefardi shuls (many) have it in the back Conservative / Reform have it on the bimah where ark is and reader is facing the cong.

What is the source / history behind these placements? I assume some are halacha, some minhag.

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Flags on either side of the ark? What kind of flags? – Double AA Aug 26 '14 at 2:50
I assume the flags on either side is to lend visual symmetry to the building for aesthetic reasons. Flags on the bimah are still very much a "some shuls have it, some don't". It's not common enough to warrant being called a minhag. – Bachrach44 Aug 26 '14 at 3:15
@DoubleAA. My former (modern orthodox) synagogue had an Israeli and an American flag on either side of the bimah. Our congregation also recited the Prayer for Israel and the Prayer for the (USA) Government. I wonder if it is more likely that shuls which recite those prayers are also more likely to have the flags. My current synagogue (high profile) however recites the prayers but does not have the flags. – JJLL Aug 26 '14 at 14:02

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