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Synagogues of Safed: The Avreitsh Synagogue

The Avreitsh Synagogue is named for Rabbi Avraham Dov of Ukraine, who was also known as the Avreitsher. Rabbi Dov was born in Europe and moved to Tsfat, where he became the leader of the community, in the early 19th century. He died from the plague in 1840 and was buried in Tsfat's ancient cemetery.

According to legend, during the earthquake of 1837, Rabbi Dov gathered all of the men on one side of the synagogue; the side of the synagogue that did not collapse and was spared. After the quake, he helped to procure funds for rebuilding Tsfat and the Avreitsh Synagogue, which was restored and is now open for Shabbat and holiday services.

The synagogue possesses 14 Torah scrolls, one of which was read by the Avreitsher and is only used on Rosh Chodesh and holidays. Some of the other Torah scrolls were brought over from Iran over three hundred years ago and are kept in beautiful Persian cases. Originally an Ashkenazic synagogue that operated in accordance with the traditions of the Ukrainian town of Avreitsh where Rabbi Dov had been head Rabbi for 40 years before coming to Tsfat, the synagogue has adopted Sephardic customs since 1948.

There is a large wooden chair from Iran for brit milot (male covenant ceremonies). It is near the original sofa that was used for the performance of these ritual circumcisions by the Avreitsher himself. Also intact are the original chair and shtender from which the Avreitsher prayed. A new aron kodesh was built to accommodate the many Torah scrolls in the congregation's possession, but the original one used by Rabbi Dov is still kept in the synagogue. The walls of the synagogue bear plaques and lists noting donations by both large and smaller donors.

Sources: Ascent of Safed, Tsfat Experiences