The Ohel Yitzchak Synagogue (Hungarian synagogue) is located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was built as a yeshiva in the 1870s by Kolel Shomrei HaChomos, an organization of Hungarian Jews, but was abandoned after the riots of 1938. Although the building was destroyed after 1948, it has recently been acquired by a Religious Zionist group for refurbishment and was reopened after restoration work finished in October 2008.
More About Ohel Yitzchak Synagogue
In 1862 students of the Chassam Sofer, Rabbi Moses Sofer arrived in Jerusalem from Hungary and established a community called Shomrei HaChomos, meaning Guardians of the Walls. During the 1870s, they built a yeshiva about 100 meters from the Chain Gate on el-Wad Street in today’s Muslim Quarter. The courtyard was purchased from the Muslim Khaladi family. Rabbi Yitzchok Ratsdorfer, a diamond merchant from the Hasidic group Belz, financed the building.
In 1892 the community established a neighborhood outside the Old City walls called Batei Ungarin, part of the neighborhood now known as Meah Shearim. In 1904 the yeshiva in the Old City was expanded, and a second story was added. While construction was taking place, the Ottoman authorities warned that the extension would not be allowed. They opposed its roof being taller than the Dome of the Rock. Construction of the roof was completed overnight, ensuring that the building would be finished. Turkish law stated that once a building had been erected, it could no longer be demolished.
The building accommodated the yeshiva on the ground floor called Ohr Meir, and its students held study sessions 24 hours a day. The top floor housed two prayer rooms, one for the Chasidim, who use Nusach Sefard, and one for the Perushim, who use Nusach Ashkenaz. The building also contained a mikvah.
The Abandonment of Ohel Yitzchak Synagogue
Although the riots of 1920 and 1929 disturbed the running of the yeshiva, Jews still frequented the building until Arab violence forced them to vacate the premises during the 1938 riots. Members relocated to Meah Shearim, and the building was rented to Arabs until 1948 Arab–Israeli War, during which it was destroyed.
Its members relocated their entire organization, Kolel Shomrei HaChomos, to other locations in the city, including Mea Shearim, where they built new buildings and synagogues.
The Rededication of the Synagogue
In 1967, after the Six-Day War, all that remained intact was the ground floor of the building, which was turned into a Jewish book store. Years later, the Religious Zionist organization Ateret Cohanim encouraged an American charity funded by American Jewish businessman Irving Moskowitz, a regular donor to right-wing groups in East Jerusalem, to buy the building. The organization then gave the Western Wall Heritage Foundation the right to manage the synagogue site and the excavations. In October 2008, the yeshiva was officially reopened as a synagogue.