Cumberland Times-News

February 9, 2013

B’er Chayim Temple earns award from Maryland Historical Trust

Building at Centre and Union streets oldest continuously operating synagogue in state

For the Cumberland Times-News
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — The B’er Chayim Temple received a Maryland Historical Trust Ex-cellence in Institutional Rehabilitation Award during the recent 2013 Maryland Preservation Awards ceremony at the Governor Calvert Ballroom in Annapolis.

Recipients were selected from nominations submitted by individuals and organizations from across Maryland. The board of trustees considered a variety of factors including community impact, adherence to best practices and innovation, but all winners are considered to be exemplary role models.

“These individuals and pro-jects represent the best in heritage education, community revitalization and volunteerism in Maryland,” said Charles Edson of Chevy Chase, chairman of the board of trustees of MHT.

Jewish citizenry in Cumberland can be traced back to the very early 1800s, according to a press release from Betsey Hurwitz-Schwab. By 1853, 12 Jewish families had taken residence in the growing city of 6,150 people. This small group applied to the Maryland General Assembly for an act incorporating the B’er Chayim (Well of Life) congregation on May 23, 1853.

Constructed by the congregation in 1866, B’er Chayim Temple is the oldest continuously operating synagogue building in Maryland. For more than 10 years, B’er Chayim had sought to undertake significant restoration and capital improvements to the temple building. Thanks to the generosity of the Sara (Feldstein) Ridgway and John Ridgway Trust, a complete rehabilitation of the temple was begun in September 2011 and completed in September 2012.

Once again restored to its former glory, the B’er Chayim Temple serves as both a significant architectural resource within the city of Cumberland as well as an important landmark of Jewish history and culture in Maryland.  

Community partners in the project included Troy McKenzie, McKanical Marvels; Bill Yarnell, Allegheny Restoration Inc.; Jeremy Irons, The Belt Group; Jim Hosken, Specs Inc.; Shelley Meismer, Lakeside Architecture Inc.; Anna Hoyman, Hoyman Painting; Randy Rice, Hite Roofing; and Dale Hankinson, Glass Service of Cumberland.

State Sen. George Edwards joined the B’er Chayim delegation for the award presentation.