Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

Collections: Objects of the Month

April 2010: Circumcision gown, 1877

Archives Record
Object #: 2000.04.1
Donor: Amy Goldstein
Description: Circumcision gown, 1877. White cotton with white embroidery and eyelet work on the bottom of the skirt and bodice

Background: Bernhard Behrend immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1849 with his wife, Eliza, and most of their children.Bendiza Behrend's business card By the 1850s, several of their sons had relocated from New York to Washington, D.C., and the new arrivals became part of the small but thriving German immigrant community. Several Behrend boys had businesses downtown (see Bendiza's business card at right) and were founding members of Washington's oldest congregation – Washington Hebrew Congregation. Over the next century, the extended family became active participants in building Jewish institutions throughout the city.

Rudolph Behrend's circumcision gown, 1877 Amnon (one of Bernhard's 14 children) and Sarah Behrend dressed their infant son, Rudolph, in this handmade gown for his brit (ritual circumcision). Rudolph Behrend's circumcision gown, 1877In 1877, Rudolph was born at 706 Seventh Street, NW (shown at right in 1958), now home to Legal Sea Food, part of the recent revival of the downtown neighborhood.

Donor Amy Goldstein was Rudolph's daughter.

Do you have unique family objects that were used in your D.C.-area home?  To donate your materials to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at (202) 789-0900 or

To learn more about Jewish life around the Seventh Street, NW, corridor between 1850 and 1950, join us on a Downtown Jewish Washington walking tour!