The story of his leading a community in Hebron has its root in 1517, when the Ottoman Turks invaded and Sephardic Jews living in Ottoman Salonika were allowed to move to the Holy Land. Many of these Jews had been expelled from Spain in 1492. It was this community that Rabbi Ashkenazi led when he purchased a walled compound in Hebron in 1540 and founded the Avraham Avinu Synagogue which became a center of study for Kabbalah. He was a respected authority in Jewish law, and his decisions on religious matters were widely accepted, also outside of Hebron. He had an extensive library and helped edit the works of Rabbi Chaim Vital. Rabbi Ashkenazi was buried in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron.
- Auerbach, Jerold (2009). Hebron Jews : memory and conflict in the land of Israel. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 40. ISBN 9780742566170. OCLC 434006277.
But in 1540, a group of Jewish exiles from Spain, joined by Menachem ben Moshe Bavli, a respected author from Baghdad, acquired a tract of land in Hebron from the local Karaite community, a splinter sect of Jews who rejected Talmudic interpretation of the biblical text. rabbi Malchiel Ashkenazi, their benefactor, purchased a courtyard that became known as El Cortiyo, "the Court of the Jews." He also subsidized the purchase of additional buildings around the newly built synagogue, where he became the first rabbi of Hebron's restored community. Referred to as an "accomplished scholar, pietist, and saint," he encouraged the migration of scholars of Kabbalistic mysticism from Safed, where he had studied before arriving in Hebron.
- "HEBRON - JewishEncyclopedia.com". www.jewishencyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
Local tradition attributes the foundation of the modern community to Malkiel Ashkenazi in whose honor a service is held every year on the anniversary of his death.
- קלין, אריה (2007). חצרות בעיר האבות :ראשית היציאה מחוץ לרובע היהודי בחברון (in Hebrew). מכון חיים ביהוד. p. 8.
- אבישר, עודד (1970). ספר חברון (in Hebrew). ירושלים: הוצאת כתר. p. 33.
- Azulai, Hayyim Joseph David (1864). Shem ha-gedolim : Ṿaʻad la-ḥakhamim (in Hebrew). Vienna: Verlag von J. Schlesinger's buchhandlung. p. 88.
- "וחברון... נבנתה". www.zomet.org.il (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- Pickholtz, Israel. "626". www.pikholz.org. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
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