A Bit Of History
The synagogue is named for Rabbi Avraham Dov of Avrutch, who immigrated to Palestine from the Ukraine in his old age and settled in Safed in 1833. The following year, the Arabs of the Galilee raided Safed. The city's Jews fled and their property was ransacked. When they returned to the city and found themselves destitute, the rabbi and his wife helped rehabilitate the community and arranged for the support of the survivors. Since this time Rabbi Avrutch has always been viewed as a protector of the residences of Safed and many legends have evolved telling tales of how the spirit of the Rabbi have saved people from certain doom.
Saved From The Earthquake!
Continuing with the tale of Rabbi Avrutch's magical protection over the residences of Safed is the story of when the massive 1837 earthquake struck Safed, almost leveling the entire city. Legend has it that moments before the onset of the earthquake, the rabbi had gathered his congregation in the synagogue and shouted, "Everyone who values his life, come and hold the Torah scroll!" The faithful rushed to the Ark, which is situated on the southern wall of the synagogue, just as the earthquake began. The western part of the synagogue collapsed, but the area near the Ark remained intact and all of the people around it were saved. In fact, the southern wall of all synagogues in Safed, the wall that contains the Holy Ark, survived intact. A year after the earthquake, Rabbi Avraham was taken captive by some neighboring Druze. His captors tried to force him to write a letter asking his congregation to ransom him. The rabbi refused. Just as he was about to be killed, approaching horsemen frightened his captors away and the Rabbi escaped. He then continued to lead the Safed community and later facilitated the procurement of aid from Sir Moses Montefiore in order to help members of the community establish farms in the area.
The synagogue has been renovated by the Hameiri family, 7th-generation veterans of the city.