Leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, Jews today are able to wish their friends and family a happy new year through e-cards, text messages and Facebook status updates. There was a time, though, when Jews were the most prolific well-wishers by mail.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the U.S. postmaster general would remind JTA readers to mail their greeting cards early "to permit Jewish post office employees to observe the holiday." In 1928, Western Union Telegram Company declared that Jews were "the group sending the largest number of telegrams of congratulations," with some rabbis netting 500 greeting cards apiece.
The practice of wishing a Shana Tovah, or happy new year, is still alive and well. Below are 10 great Rosh Hashanah greeting cards sent long ago:
Top 10 vintage Rosh Hashanah greeting cards
10. American Jews reach out to Russian relatives. Hebrew Publishing Company, 1900-1920.
9. This Rosh Hashanah card pictures a woman … shopping for Rosh Hashanah cards. That is so meta. (CJH)
8. Mama Mia: Shana Tova from Abba (1986?, Nostal.co.il).
7. Like Happy Days, but for Jews. Year unknown; ditto for make of the convertible.
6. Oh, Layla Tov. Somebody put on the Barry White music and get these two New Years’ well-wishers a room! (1967-1968)
5. New Year’s wishes from Jerusalem before 5689, civil date 1929. That proved to be a tragic year for the Jews of Palestine, beginning with a Yom Kippur incident at the Western Wall and closing with a series of clashes that killed scores of Jews, including the Hebron massacre, which haunted synagogue-goers the following Rosh Hashanah.
4. More lovebirds, this time in Yiddish. Translation of poem:
Accept, oh, dear, my blessing —
May it be a golden time now coming
Filled with light and joy and love,
Filled with blossoming and with blooming!
(Williamsburg Company, 1910-1915)
3. Illustrated 3-D card from Israel in 1950s portraying the farming life.
2. Instead of "happy and healthy new year," the captions on these cards from the 1950s wish the recipient "a year of peace and security." Sign of the times.
1. This Hebrew Publishing Company Rosh Hashanah card is a 3-D popup greeting that reads "Panorama of Tel Aviv" in Yiddish. It’s the equivalent of a Christmas photo card from the von Trapp family: designed to wish you a new year while simultaneously giving you an inferiority complex. (Hebrew Publishing Company, 1906-1912)
For more Rosh Hashanah greeting card collections, check out the Center for Jewish History (disclosure: sponsors of our "This Week in Jewish History" newsletter), Nostal.co.il, The iCenter, and Givat Haviva’s Hashomer HaTzair archives.