After the fall of Judah, and subsequent destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC, the Jews no longer had a central place of worship. Surrounded by foreigners and pagan religions, the exiles faced extinction of their culture, so the synagogue arose as the center of Jewish religion and social life. The term comes from the Greek word for “assembly” or “gathering,” and can refer to both the people gathered and the building they gather in. In a synagogue, Jews would regularly study Scripture, worship, and pray as a community, which helped preserve Jewish faith, language, and culture despite isolation from other Jews and separation from the Temple. Unlike the Temple, where only priests could minister, all Jews participated and took turns leading activities. It also served as a local court for deciding legal matters, and an elementary school where Jewish children were taught to read. Synagogues were found throughout the Roman Empire anywhere a community of Jews lived. The buildings themselves had a large seating area, where the congregation sat on the floor or stone benches. At the far end of the room, opposite the doors, a platform held a chest containing Scriptures, which were read at every assembly. Seats on the platform were reserved as places of honor for elders and other synagogue leaders.