Chevrei Tzedek Congregation to mark new milestone with cemetery consecration


After an arduous 12-year search for a location, Chevrei Tzedek Congregation has finally acquired its own cemetery and will be holding an on-site consecration ceremony and open house at 11 a.m. on Sept. 18. (The event was originally scheduled for Sept. 11, but was postponed on account of rain.)

painting by Marc Chagall
(Marc Chagall, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)

The consecration, which will be led by Rabbi Rory Katz, brings to an end a project proposed by former Cemetery Committee Chair Alan Cohen. The committee was initially comprised of Cohen, Peter Merles, and Antoine Grobani, but Grobani died from COVID-19 in 2020 before he was able to see their plans come to fruition. Merles, who has held many offices in the congregation, eventually took over the project.

“At the early stages, there were many financial considerations that were an obstacle for a small, struggling synagogue like ours,” Merles said of why establishing a cemetery took over a decade. The Cemetery Committee visited several other Jewish cemeteries in the Baltimore area to get ideas and see where there was open space available.

When Beth Shalom Congregation of Carroll County reached out to Chevrei Tzedek in 2010 about the possibility of sharing Beth Shalom’s cemetery, as it was much bigger than they needed, prospects seemed promising. But then Beth Shalom ceased operating as a synagogue, though they attempted to continue operating the cemetery independently until those efforts fell eventually fell through.

The Jewish Cemetery Association of Greater Baltimore took ownership of the property later on. More recently, Chevrei Tzedek has been working closely with the Jewish Cemetery Association and its president, Steve Venick, to reach an agreement about the land. They were eventually granted permission to use it as a cemetery for their congregation.

The four-acre site, surrounded by a buffer of wooded property, is an approximately 35-minute drive from Pikesville. It is accessed by a gated private road at 2020 West Liberty Road in Taylorsville, Carroll County.

Merle described it as “a lovely, grassy, gradually-sloping site surrounded by woods. It’s pastoral and, as far as cemeteries go, I’d say it’s rather pleasant.”

About two dozen burial plots are taken up by members of the former Beth Shalom Congregation, but over 200 remain for Chevrei Tzedek’s use and there is room to expand with more. There is also a separate interfaith section of the cemetery reserved for synagogue members who may want to be buried alongside their non-Jewish spouse or other family members. Aside from that area, the cemetery meets the standards required of a traditional Jewish cemetery and has been certified by the Jewish Cemetery Association.

“A sacred burial ground has often been the starting point for the firm establishment of a Jewish community,” the congregation posted on their Facebook page Sept. 4. “When Jews first arrived in the United States, and in other countries of the world, land for a cemetery was often purchased before property for a synagogue building or other communal institution.”

“We also recognize that having a Jewish cemetery is a mark of permanence [for a synagogue],” Merle said.

Recently, the cemetery has taken on a more personal meaning for Merles.

“It became a very urgent personal need for me when my wife passed away about five weeks ago,” he said. “Sadly, after all my work, she became the first burial site determined [in the Chevrei Tzedek cemetery]. I feel like my efforts were personally rewarding for me and my family.”

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