Tucked away in the Old City of Safed, on Alkabetz Street, you will find the delightful Kosov Synagogue. It has a haimishy atmosphere and English speakers can feel comfortably at home as three of the people behind the shul are English speakers. The synagogue is also a great place to go if you are on vacation as they start Shabbat morning services in the summer at 9.00am, with a very late weekday Maariv at 10.30pm all year round.
Built in 1867 just after the earthquake, the Kosov Synagogue was funded and supported by the Jewish community of Kosov in Galicia. Before the Nazis exterminated the Kosov community in Galicia in 1942, the Kosov shul was one of the active synagogues in Jewish quarter of Safed, now known as the Old City. After 1942, the community and its synagogue fell into decline as it was "orphaned" with no community left to support either the members or the building. Regular weekday services gradually stopped although Shabbat services continued until about 25 years ago when there were no longer enough members to have a minyan. The synagogue then became used as a as a storage room by a local artist until 1990.
The Beth Din of Safed (religious court) then awarded the trusteeship to some local individuals on the condition that this new community continued both the customs and the name of Kosov.
In the Kosov synagogue the Friday night dancing has become an institution attracting up to 150 visitors. The Nusach (liturgy) used by the shul is organized differently from the regular prayer book and the minhag (customs) commonly thought to be from Vizshnitz actually originally came from Kosov.
Due to its age and small size the synagogue has the feel of an "ancient shul" which helps to give it a lot of atmosphere; on other hand it needs a lot of repair and work. When the shul was taken over by its new custodians they found the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) open, unlocked and abandoned. Inside there were three Sefer Torah all at least 100 years old. One is very small and belonged to the Rebbe in Kosov, Galicia, and experts declared that it was 300 years old. These Torahs are used regularly 3 times a week, on Sundays, Thursdays and twice on Shabbat.
The Men's Section
Up a small narrow staircase is a room set up for both praying and learning Torah. The shul has about 15 to 20 regular worshipers, some of whom also study when the shul is operating as a Beit Midrash. The wood burning stove keeps everyone warm in the winter while in summer there is air-conditioning.
The ladies gallery is small, up a side staircase, and has a lace curtain mechitza. The women can easily hear the services, and peer from behind the curtain at the men dancing during Kabbalat Shabbat when about 50 women attend. Women don't normally attend services during the week.
Mincha: ten minutes before sunset
Maariv: 20 minutes after sunset. There is also a second Maariv at 10.30pm
Friday Night: 15 minutes after candle lighting
Shacharit: Summer 9am, Winter 8.30am
Mincha: candle lighting time
Maariv: straight after Seuda Shlishit (Third Meal) at the shul
There is a morning and evening kollel which attracts about 8 -10 men, hence the late Maariv minyan.
The synagogue and the Kollel are dependent on funding and there is a lot of work needed just to maintain the building, never mind do necessary repairs and improvements.