In 1917 four families, formerly members of Portsmouth's orthodox Gomley Chesed Synagogue, decided to found their own orthodox synagogue and call it Chevra T'helim which means "family of psalms." The land was acquired in 1918, and the building was erected soon after.
Chevra T'helim thrived for decades, counting as many as 200 families at its height. Chevra T'helim became the centerpiece of a thriving first- and second-generation immigrant Jewish community, providing families with a rich traditional Jewish background and a direct link to their European ancestors who came to America to find freedom and prosperity.
By 1985, the once vibrant congregation could barely sustain a minyan. Soon its doors were closed. Today, however, this proud edifice has been renewed.
In 2002, the Friends of Chevra T'helim, Inc., formed a 501(c)(3) organization and stepped in to preserve this historic landmark. They acquired the building, and launched a Capital Campaign to raise $500,000. Renowned architect John Paul Hanbury of the firm of Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas & Company, noted for their excellence in historic preservation, oversaw the restoration of this architectural gem.
In March 2008, the Jewish Museum & Cultural Center celebrated its opening. It is recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is on the Virginia Historic Register.