I’ve always thought it interesting, and you can sometimes tell something about the character of the place. Here are some of my observations regarding shul names. I should note that I don’t know a darn thing about the naming of R or C synagogues:
- Any shul which bears the word ‘ahavah’ or ‘shalom’ in it’s title is a breakaway.
- Any shul which has a ‘siege-mentality’ name, such as Shearith Israel, Machzikei Torah, Shomrei Emunah, etc. was started by a group of people who refused to go along with the movement of an Orthodox synagogue away from Orthodoxy (either by the membership or in practice). Alternatively, it was established by a group of Holocaust refugees.
- Chassidic shuls will often couch the identity of the Chassidus they follow in the title of the shul - Tzemach Tzedek, Aish Kodesh, Arugas HaBosem, etc.
- The word ‘Tefilah’ is more likely to be in the name of an MO shul. The word ‘Torah’ more likely to be a more yeshivishe or chareidi shul.
- A shul won’t be known by the last name of the Rabbi unless the Rabbi is actually the founder of the shul. No shul that progresses from a minyan of balabatim to an actual kehilla with a Rabbi will be known by the name of the Rabbi.
And some funny shul names:
- I was once in a shul known as ‘Kesser Israel’. On one plaque, I saw it spelled as ‘Kesher Israel’ in Hebrew (i.e., quf-shin, not kof-sof). I suspected that the shul was founded by Jews of Lithuanian descent (who were notorious for not distinguishin between the ‘s’ and ‘sh’ sounds), and it turned out to be correct.
- 15 years ago, when the Kosher hot dog stand opened at Camden Yards in Baltimore, they instituted a minyan there (Mincha at day games, ma’ariv at night games). Many wanted to call it ‘Congregation Bais Ball’. I thought that was thoroughly uncreative, and so suggested ‘Khal Ripken’.