Rosh Hashanah Postcards

It’s always exciting to find Hidden Treasure. So it was great to see these evocative Yiddish New Year postcards found, in her home, by Doris Levinson.

Hidden Treasures is a project of the Board of Deputies of British Jews which celebrates the many archives in Britain that contain material which tells the story of Jews in this country. Archives have photographs, documents, artefacts, audio and video recordings. The project also encourages people to search their own homes for ‘treasures’ that tell a Jewish story and this is what Doris had done.

She showed me these postcards which she had found at home in Brighton, in a photograph album belonging to her late husband. He and his family had lived in London’s East End. We dated them around 1910 or so and translated the Yiddish messages on the front. Doris – who is the Editor of the Sussex Jewish News – decided to put them on the front page of this year’s Rosh Hashanah edition.

I’d seen reproductions of similar postcards in the gift shop at Polin, the Jewish Museum in Warsaw and there are original postcards in the collection at the Jewish Museum in London.

The tradition of sending New Year’s greetings for the Jewish holidays dates from the fourteenth century but it was not until the mass production of printed material and affordable stationery that the practice became widespread.

The first postcard was invented in Vienna in 1869 and was just a blank square of thin card. The classic picture postcard followed shortly after and was quickly taken up by the public, becoming so popular that the years between 1898 and 1920 have been referred to as the ‘Great Post Card Craze’.

During this craze, the practice of sending Jewish New Year postcards also took off. Germany and Poland were the centres of production for these cards, with German printers primarily using biblical imagery for illustrations. East European printers opted for artwork depicting scenes from day to day Jewish life, as in Doris’ postcards. The image was often paired with a rhyme or short message in Yiddish as they are in Doris’ postcards.

The Yiddish message on the first card says “The sky has split!” (in the scroll) and in the cloud it’s written ‘plenty of good things’ . Lots of good things will come pouring down from the heavens.

We know that the second one was designed by Haim Goldberg (you can see his name on the bottom right hand corner) who was the most important designer of Rosh Hashannah cards. It says:

We are New Year blacksmiths
Currently forging out
Luck for all Jews
And life and health.

Happy New Year to you all!


Dawn Waterman leads Hidden Treasures; celebrating Jewish archives in Britain at the Board of Deputies of British Jews


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Hidden Treasures: Celebrating the documents, photos and artefacts in British archives that tell the story of Jews in Britain