If you visit your local stationery store in September, you may well find a small selection of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) cards. The cards will probably have the standard Hebrew greeting for the new year, Le-shanah tovah tikatevu (literally, "May you be inscribed for a good year"). They may be serious, as befits a greeting card for the "Days of Awe," or light-hearted. (I saw one recently that showed a man asking his neighbor, "How's your New Year going?" Answer: "Shofar, so good"). It's a safe bet, though, that you won't find anything as elaborate, charming and, yes, kitschy as the Rosh Hashanah cards in the Dorot Jewish Division.
These cards, originally housed in the Library's Picture Collection, were created about a century ago. Although intended for an English-speaking audience, the cards were actually printed in Germany. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the finest postcards, greeting cards and movable books were made in Germany, where artisans had perfected the craft of color printing.
The cards offer an idyllic view of late-Victorian Jewish life. For example, this scene...
...opens up onto this scene:
Within the golden doors, a bride and groom stand under the chuppah, or bridal canopy:
A young Jewish woman waves a banner heralding the New Year; on her sash are the Hebrew words "Bat-Tsiyon" ("Daughter of Zion"):
Elsewhere, another "Daughter of Zion" celebrates the New Year:
Some cards depict the Jewish life cycle, with the German phrase "Von Stufe zu Stufe" ("Step by step") inscribed over a brilliant sun. Perhaps the German printers forgot to change this label for their English-language cards; or possibly they knew that the givers and receivers of these cards might be prosperous English-speaking Jews of German ancestry who would still know German. Notice that the life cycle--babyhood, bar mitzvah, marriage, fatherhood, old age--is depicted from right to left, like the Hebrew language:
Jews often wish each other a "sweet" year at Rosh Hashanah. What could be sweeter than these New Year cards?