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OBJECT OF THE MONTH – September 2008

Anonymous author: Fragment of a New Year’s Greetings Card

Anonymous author: Fragment of a New Year’s Greetings Card embossed print on paper, s.d. / s.l.
1880s/1890s, USA (Williamsburg Post Card Co., New York?)
marked: WB & C. 422 (mirror lettering)
JMP 179.039/10

These two fragments from a New Year (Rosh Hashanah) greetings card are a very interesting example of the development of Zionist symbols and the flag of the future Jewish state. Carried on gold poles by a man and woman, the white banners have blue stripes and Star of David (Magen David, or Shield of David) motifs with the word “Zion” inscribed in Hebrew letters at the centre. The same emblem – the Star of David with the “Zion” inscription – is featured on the white sashes around their chests; the woman’s sash is also adorned with the inscription “Bat Zion” (Daughter of Zion). In addition, the banners and attached ribbons carry the traditional inscription L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu – May you be inscribed for a good year. As there is no year in the inscription, it is not possible to date the greetings card directly, but the use of the symbols suggest that it may have been printed before the First Zionist Congress in 1897 and before the establishment of the World Zionist Organization. The iconography clearly refers to Hovevei Zion (also known as Hibbat Zion, “[Those who are] Fond of Zion”), a movement that is considered the predecessor of Zionism. The inscription on the woman’s sash ([hi]bbat Zion) may also refer to the name Hibbat Zion. The figural motifs were taken from pop-up postcards, which were also very popular items outside the Jewish milieu. The custom of sending greeting cards flourished between the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the end of the First World War. Postcards with Jewish motifs were produced mainly in the centres of the Jewish publishing industry, i.e. on the east coast of the United States (Philadelphia and New York), but also in Germany, Poland, Greece and what was then Palestine.



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