Festival Stamps (5761) 2000Festival Stamps (5761) 2000Festival Stamps (5761) 2000

  • Issue: September 2000
  • Designer: Hayim Shtayer
  • Stamp Size: 25.7 mm x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 415, 416, 417
  • Sheet of 15 stamps, Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

Every year hundreds of thousands Jewish New Year cards are mailed throughout the Jewish world. Contrary to a widely held opinion, the origin of this custom predates by centuries the Christian New Year cards, which have been so popular in Europe and the United States since the 19th Century. In fact, already in 14th Century Germany, rabbis recommended that letters sent during the month of Elul should open with the blessing "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year". The German rabbis based this practice on a familiar Talmudic dictum in tractate Rosh ha-Shanah 16b concerning the "setting down" of one's fate in one of the three Heavenly books that are opened on the Jewish New Year. The German-Jewish custom reached widespread popularity, however, only with the invention in Vienna, 1869 of the postal card. This invention won immediate success and within a few years the plain cards were enriched by illustrations, which attracted the public to buy more and more cards, illustrated with beloved and familiar topics.

The high period of the illustrated postcard, called in the literature "The
Postal Card Craze" (1898-1918), marks also the flourishing of the Jewish New Year card in Europe and the U.S. The cards printed during these years were produced in three major centers. Germany, Poland, and the U.S. (chiefly in New York). The German cards are frequently illustrated with biblical themes, such as the Giving of the Law or the Binding of Isaac, which were popular also among the general society. The makers of the Jewish cards in Warsaw on the other hand preferred to depict the religious life of Eastern European Jewry. Though the images on their cards were often theatrically staged in a studio with amateur actors, they preserve the views and customs lost in the Holocaust. The mass immigration of the Jews from Eastern Europe to the United States in the first decades of the 20th Century gave a new boost to the production of the cards. The colorful and elaborate new cards frequently depicted America as the new homeland, widely opening her arms to the new immigrants. At the same time other American cards emphasized the Zionist ideology and depicted contemporary views of Eretz Israel.

Dr. Shalom Sabar
Dept. of Jewish and Comparative Folklore and Art History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Festival Stamps (5761) 2000