About the Collection

This is a collection of abstracts and translations from Rabbi Zacharia Emmich’s Bris Book, 1851 through 1874 in the Archival Collection, Congregation Beth Israel, Houston.

In 1860, Congregation Beth Israel employed Rabbi Emmich the state’s first full-time Jewish religious leader; however, his contact would not be renewed. Why translate and transcribe this book? Because it demonstrates the importance of circumcision to Jewish families and is a ritual which dates to Biblical times and between as a covenant between God and Abraham upon the birth of his son, Isaac (Genesis 17:9-14).

In Texas, many newborn sons being circumcised were first-generation Americans born to recent immigrants. Many were also second-generation Texans. Many infants whose births were celebrated did not live into adulthood. This translation may provide
the only documentation of their short lives. Many infant graves in Texas Jewish cemeteries are unmarked, bear only the family surname, or have a tombstone that have eroded with time.

The original Bris Book is a bound book approximately 4″ x 6″ chronicling the circumcisions performed by Rabbi Emmich. A portion of the book is printed in German and Hebrew, followed by a handwritten section beginning on page 73 with the names and dates.

Original Book

You may access scanned images of the book by clicking here. A translation, along with biographical information about Rabbi Emmich can be accessed by clicking here.

About the Data

The information in Rabbi Emich’s book spans December 1, 1851 – February 21, 1874. It’s geographical locations include Germany, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana & Texas.

The following fields are in the collection:

  • Record no. – sequence number for log entry
  • Page – page number on which the entry appears
  • Town – town where ceremony was performed
  • Date – date of ceremony
  • Hebrew Date – Hebrew date of the ceremony
  • Hebrew First Name – Hebrew name of the boy
  • Father’s First Name – Hebrew name of the father of the boy
  • Last name – surname of boy
  • First Name (English) – English first name of boy

Annotations

  • There are handwriting condition issues in the book that are related to this entry that does not allow for translation. Some of these translation issues are “best guess.”
  • Date & location = When and where the Bris Ceremony was held.

Acknowledgements

Special thank you to

  • Marion Hattenbach Bernstein  for indexing, transcribing and translating the records.
  • Lynna Kay Shuffield, for her tireless efforts in organizing this project.

Records Inventory

There are 203 records in the this collection. 

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