An Austrian Seder Night
These are two postcards that illustrate Seder night in a Jewish house in Western Europe (probably Austria) at the end of the nineteenth century.
In the first postcard, there are a number of signs of the family's integration into Austrian society. The older man in the drawing wears what seems to be a traditional hat, but the other members of the family are dressed in more modern clothes. In addition, the picture of the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef hangs on the wall. This loyalty to the Empire is further emphasised by the fact that one of the family members is wearing army uniform. The Hebrew writing on the top of the postcard describes the scene as Seder night. At the bottom of the first postcard, there are captions in both Hebrew and German. The Hebrew is the quote HaLachma Anya (This is the bread of affliction) from the Haggadah. The German inscription reads "Happy Holidays."
The second postcard depicts Tzafun – the part of the Seder when a piece of matzah is hidden and the children are sent to search for it. The Hebrew underneath the picture is the quote, "How is this night different from all other nights?" and the German reads, "Whole-hearted greetings for Eastern." Eastern was the term German-speaking Jews gave to Pesach due to its close proximity to Easter.
These postcards were part of a collection of postcards illustrating the Jewish festivals that were issued as New Year's greeting cards.
These postcards could be shown in Jewish Studies lessons when teaching about the Seder. They could also be used in History lessons when talking about German Jewry or as a trigger activity to a discussion about assimilation and the Enlightenment period.
Describe the pictures.
Which festival is shown in these pictures?
Who are the people in the picture?
How are they dressed?
What can you say about the furniture and the room?
What can you learn about the family from looking at the picture?
What is the object in the middle of the table?
The pictures on the wall show a royal family. Can you guess from these pictures which country it is?
In the second postcard the little girl is standing up. What do you think she is doing?
What can you learn from the appearance of Jewish soldiers in Austrian army uniform?
What does this say about their relationship with the Empire?
What do you think was happening a moment before this drawing?
Which elements in the pictures are similar to your house on Seder night?
Which are different?