B'er Chayim Temple

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B'er Chayim Temple
Congregation B'er Chayim.jpg
B'er Chayim Temple, May 2008
B'er Chayim Temple is located in Maryland
B'er Chayim Temple
Location Union and South Centre Streets, Cumberland, Maryland, United States
Coordinates 39°39′2″N 78°45′38″W / 39.65056°N 78.76056°W / 39.65056; -78.76056Coordinates: 39°39′2″N 78°45′38″W / 39.65056°N 78.76056°W / 39.65056; -78.76056
Area Less than one acre
Built 1866 (151 years ago) (1866)
Built by John B. Walton
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP Reference # 79001106[1]
Added to NRHP November 15, 1979 (37 years ago) (1979-11-15)

B'er Chayim Temple (Hebrew for Well of Life,[2] a metaphor in which Torah is likened to water) is a synagogue in Cumberland, Maryland. B'er Chayim counts approximately 72 families as members.[3]

B'er Chayim is the oldest synagogue building in continuous use as a synagogue in Maryland and the sixth oldest in the United States.[4][5]

Clergy and leadership[edit]

Rabbi Mark J. Perman has served as the spiritual leader of B'er Chayim since July 2016.[6] A native of New York City,[7] Rabbi Perman graduated from the High School of Performing Arts, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and New York University.[6] Rabbi Perman was officially ordained a cantor in 1997,[6] and he was ordained a rabbi by Mesifta Program in Queens, New York, in 2013.[6] Prior to joining B'er Chayim, Rabbi Perman served as the interim cantor at Congregation Emanu El in Houston.[7]

Lee Schwartz serves as president of B'er Chayim.[8]

Religious services and programs[edit]

Shabbat services are held Friday evening.[9] Services and celebrations of Jewish holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah,[10][11] Yom Kippur,[2] and Chanukah,[12] are held throughout the year.[9]

Torah study sessions are held twice a month.[9]


The first Jewish resident recorded in Cumberland dates to 1816. Twelve Jewish families were living in Cumberland, which then had a population of 6,150, in 1853 when congregation B'er Chayim was chartered[disambiguation needed] by the Maryland state legislature.[4] The congregation was Orthodox when the temple was built,[13] although it is now a Reform congregation.

Between 1865 and 1867, the congregation built a two-story, Greek Revival synagogue building on the corner of South Centre and Union Streets. The building cost $7,427.02 to construct.[4] The facade is ornamented with four pilasters, a handsome pediment, and four very un-Greek Rundbogenstil, or round-arched, windows.[13] The building was constructed by local builder John B. Walton.[14]

Prayers and sermons were originally held in German, rather than Hebrew.[15]

Beth Jacob Synagogue, which was also located in Cumberland, merged with B'er Chayim Temple in 1996.[3]

In 2011, the synagogue underwent renovation.[2] The brickwork's mortar was redone, the wrought iron gates outside the entrance were restored, improved the interior, and made the synagogue wheelchair-accessible.[16][17] The synagogue's building was reopened on August 17, 2014, and the synagogue was rededicated on November 7, 2014.[18] The Cumberland Historic Preservation Board gave an award to B'er Chayim for the synagogue's restoration.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c Barkley, Kristin Harty."B'er Chayim temple will undergo major renovation: Built in 1864, brick building recognized as longest continuously operating synagogue in Maryland". The Cumberland Times-News (Cumberland, Maryland). September 18, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Pash, Barbara. "'We Don't Give Up': Cumberland's sole synagogue helps maintain Western Maryland's Jewish presence". Jewish Times (Baltimore, Maryland). October 31, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c "Jewish community celebrating restoration of historic city temple". The Cumberland Times-News (Cumberland, Maryland). November 2, 2014.
  5. ^ Gordon, Mark. "Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues". American Jewish History. 84.1. p. 11–27.
  6. ^ a b c d "Meet Our Rabbi". B'er Chayim Temple. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Blaisdell, Elaine. "New rabbi has plans for theater at B'er Chayim". The Cumberland Times-News (Cumberland, Maryland). October 3, 2016.
  8. ^ "Board Members, Committee Chairs and Contacts". B'er Chayim Temple. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c "Services". B'er Chayim Temple. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  10. ^ Shapiro, David. "Jewish New Year starts Sept. 8". Mineral Daily News-Tribune (Mineral, West Virginia). August 28, 2010.
  11. ^ "Celebrations offer hope for new birth, new ways". The Cumberland Times-News (Cumberland, Maryland). September 1, 2010.
  12. ^ "How area residents celebrate Chanukah". Mineral Daily News-Tribune (Mineral, West Virginia). November 22, 2009.
  13. ^ a b Staff (undated). "B'er Chayim Temple". National Park Service. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  14. ^ Gordon, Mark (1996). "Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues". American Jewish History. 84.1. pp. 11–27.(registration required)
  15. ^ William Pratt and Dave Dorsey (December 1977). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: B'er Chayim Temple" (PDF). Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  16. ^ Bieniek, Matthew"Cardin visits city temple". The Cumberland Times-News (Cumberland, Maryland). January 13, 2012.
  17. ^ "Temple renovations". The Cumberland Times-News. (Cumberland, Maryland). November 17, 2011.
  18. ^ "Congregation announces move back to temple". The Cumberland Times-News (Cumberland, Maryland). July 24, 2014.
  19. ^ Barkley, Kristin Harty. "Commission recognizes B'er Chayim temple - Greene Street property also receives preservation commission award". The Cumberland Times-News (Cumberland, Maryland). August 30, 2012.

External links[edit]