Huberman Festival stamps 5750 (1989)Festival stamps 5750 (1989)Festival stamps 5750 (1989)

  • Issue: September 1989
  • Designer: N. & M. Eshel
  • Stamp size: 40 x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 94 - 96
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

Cutting shapes from paper was a ritualistic folk art among Jews, in which symmetrical, decorative and symbolic forms of religious appurtenances, animals and lettering were painstakingly crafted. As opposed to paper-cuts found in other cultures, among the Jews it is very rare to find human profiles or landscapes.

Its beginnings, it would seem, were in the Far East, where paper patterns were used to decorate windows and to stick on doors as protection against evil spirits, and in shadow plays.

In the centre of the paper-cut there generally appears one of the traditional Jewish symbols, the Seven-Branched Candelabra, the two Tablets of Stone, or the Torah Scroll. These are usually surrounded by motifs from the animal world, or plants or fruits, or by geometric forms. The most common animals are the lion, the leopard and the eagle. Similarly, the symbols of the Twelve Tribes are very commonly found, as are architectural elements symbolising Jerusalem and the Temple. A large, beautiful paper-cut was the "Misrah" sign, meaning "East", which hung on the eastern wall inside houses and synagogues, indicating the direction for prayer (towards Jerusalem). Paper-cuts were also made to commemorate occasions both joyful and sad.

These are, by and large, few in number. They are called "Menorah" (Candelabra), because the Seven-Branched candelabra is their main motif. Large paper-cuts served to decorate the home and the synagogue, and small ones served as amulets, featuring, as they did, writings from the Kabbalah and on the "Khamsa" (the five-finger hand).

The art of paper cutting disappeared in the European Holocaust, and the few examples of the art that have survived are now in the hands of museums or private collectors. In the last few years, the art of paper cutting has been revived by artists in Israel and in the United States. Unlike the popular art form of the past, newly revived paper cuts have the special, personal stamp of the artist, not the community.

Dinsbach, Germany, 1515 30.6cm a 30.5 cm Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The lettering on this Misrah paper-cut indicates that it was made as a wedding present for a friend by Shimon Papleunelach of Dinsbach. In the upper half there is a plate in the form of a sign, supported by two lions, and on it is written the word "Misrah" (East), and the verse "On this side is the spirit of life". The initials of each word in this verse spell Out, in Hebrew, the word "Misrah", so this verse is found on many Misrah signs, either written together as a verse, or with each one of its four words placed in one of the four corners of the paper-cut. In the lower half of the paper-cut there is a picture of a hunter and below this a pastoral scene: people and cattle in a rustic landscape, subjects typically found in German folk culture, similar to the pictures in the paper-cuts described earlier.

Ukraina, 1921 44cm x 38cm Israel Museum, Jerusalem
This paper-cut looks like a sort of lace tablecloth: the Menorah (the Seven-Branched Candelabra), on top of which is the word Misrah is placed in the centre of some lush vegetation, intertwined in which are pairs of animals and a two-headed eagle, all in very light colours. The name of the artist, his place of residence, and the date are hand-written, in pen, at the bottom left of the paper-cut: "Gadoliahu Neminsky, Holbenisk, Pola... Winter 5681 (1921).

Morocco, 15th or early 20th century 50cm 040 cm. The Lady Edith end sir Isaac Wolfson Museum of Jewish Art
In this paper-cut can be seen the form of a Menorah, at the sides of which are a pair of hands with its fingers spread in the manner traditionally used by the Cohanim (the priestly tribe) when uttering their blessing. The verse written within the inner border is taken from this famous blessing. On the left palm and on the left side of the Menorah can be found Psalm 67; on its right side and on the right palm is Psalm 121. This same Psalm appears in the "Shir Hamalos-Tsetl" amulets from eastern Europe.

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Festival stamps 5750 (1989)