Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Rosh Hashana Custom that’s in the Cards

In the same way that email has revived the art of letter writing, the electronic age has revitalized the custom of sending Rosh Hashana cards. It’s difficult to pinpoint when and where this custom began, but one thing is for certain – it crossed all geographical boundaries.

Sent either just before Rosh Hashana or during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the message is always clear – wishes for a healthy, happy, prosperous, and depending where you live, safe New Year. Take for example the card on the upper left hand side. It dates back to the early 1900’s and depicts Russian Jews gazing at their American relatives, urging them to come to the U.S. My guess is a history of pogroms is behind this message. Of course, not all opted for America. For many, The Holy Land was the obvious choice, and the card on the upper right hand side bearing a family photo with different Holy Land locations in the background was the commonly sent Rosh Hashanah greeting in the 1930’s.

Still, many in Eastern Europe led a good life and were determined to convey a message of love and prosperity, as seen in the next card. Printed in Germany, it was sent in 1931 from Jews in Poland to relatives living in America.

By the 1950’s, 60’s & 70’s, Rosh Hashanah cards with the popular motifs of apples & honey, a shofar, the Book of Life, and round loaves of challah, abounded. But let’s transition to our e-age and the fact that both the school year and Rosh Hashanah are just around the corner. Developing a set of Rosh Hashanah greetings (sent via e-mail) for these turbulent times could be the e-sense of your first school project.

Wishing you lots of creative quality time with your students and children…Tami

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