Objects of the Month

April 2010: Rudolph Behrend's circumcision gown, 1877

Rudolph Behrend's circumcision gown, 1877
  • Object No.: 2000.04.1
  • Donor: Amy Goldstein
  • Description:

    White cotton circumcision gown with white embroidery and eyelet work on the bottom of the skirt and bodice, 1877.

Illustrated business card for B.J. Behrend & Son, Fancy Goods & Millinery, 816-818 Seventh Street, NW, c.1870s.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Lawrence Gichner.

Bernhard Behrend immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1849 with his wife, Eliza, and most of their children. 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 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.

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

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 info@jhsgw.org.

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!