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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 in Maryland
Location Union and South Centre Streets, Cumberland, Maryland, United States
Area Less than one acre
Built 1866 (156 years ago) (1866)
Built by John B. Walton
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP reference No. 79001106
Added to NRHP November 15, 1979 (42 years ago) (1979-11-15)

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

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

Clergy and leadership

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

Lee Schwartz serves as president of B'er Chayim.

Religious services and programs

Shabbat services are held Friday evening. Services and celebrations of Jewish holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Chanukah, are held throughout the year.

Torah study sessions are held twice a month.

History

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 by the Maryland state legislature. The congregation was Orthodox when the temple was built, 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. The facade is ornamented with four pilasters, a handsome pediment, and four very un-Greek Rundbogenstil, or round-arched, windows. The building was constructed by local builder John B. Walton.

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

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

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

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