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I have seen some variation in terms of the placement of certain items in the synagogue, but typically, I notice that the Aron (ark) is in the front. Some variations as follows:

  • Most Ashkenazic shuls have an Amud (lectern from which chazzan davens most of the time) in the front below the bimah (front platform where the ark is). In shuls lacking a bimah, it is just in front of the Aron.

  • Seats for the rabbi and perhaps some extras (for shul president, etc.) on the sides of the ark.

  • Shulchan (Torah readers platform) either in the middle or the back of the shul. In a number of Conservative shuls, I have seen this in front on the bimah, and when the chazzan prays, he faces the congregation instead of the ark. (Your answer can discuss if this is halachically allowable or not. I don't think it is, as I think the chazzan must always face the ark.)

  • In Sefardic shuls, I have not seen an amud (front chazzan lectern) and there is only a shulchan in the back of the shul which both the cantor and Torah readers use.

My questions:

  • Are there any halachic standards for where certain items MUST be placed in a shul? Which ones? Why must they be placed in that position?
  • Which items may be moved to different positions? Why or hwo did these various positions become established (e.g. Ashkenazim often daven from front; Sefardim from the back?)
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  • See Rambam's Hilkhot Tefilla 11: he.m.wikisource.org/wiki/רמב"ם_הלכות_תפילה_וברכת_כהנים_יא
    – Chaim
    Apr 27, 2017 at 22:20
  • I've only been in a Sefardi shul once as far as I can remember, but it had both an amud and a Shulchan.
    – DonielF
    Apr 28, 2017 at 1:55
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    Gosh, this terminology is annoying. I've always called what you call the Shulchan a Bimah, and the platform where the Aron is just "the raised platform in front of the shul."
    – DonielF
    Apr 28, 2017 at 1:55
  • @DonielF The terminology is from what I recall offhand from Ramba"m, read it a while ago. I may have something backwards, but I don't think so. Actually, if everyone used the same terminology, no one would be confused and have to call it "raised platfrom". AFAIK, everyone calls the front stage the bimah. The Torah reader's platform is sometimes also called the bimah, but, that may be technically incorrect.
    – DanF
    Apr 28, 2017 at 2:01

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