About Shana Tova Cards
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is getting closer, and it is customary to send friends and family greetings for a Happy New Year. In the past many people sent Shana Tova (Happy New Year) cards, but today more and more greetings are sent by email, text messages and mobile apps.
The origin of the Jewish tradition of New Year greetings is from the time of the Mishna. According to Jewish tradition, a person’s destiny is decided on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This was the time when it was determined whether the following year would be a good or bad one, and thus it was also the time to pray for a good future.
The first evidence of writing Happy New Year greetings is in an halachic answer written on the subject by the Maharil (an Ashkenazi German rabbi from the fourteenth century). From the eighteenth-century development of post, travel and print, this tradition flourished in communities beyond Germany and throughout Eastern Europe, and printing businesses started to print special Shana Tova cards.
The graphic motifs on these Shana Tova cards were usually traditional or ideological Jewish symbols or images of people and events that were significant to the Jewish communities.
Shana Tova cards from Israel both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel depicted major Zionist values, such as agriculture, the Bible, the landscape of Israel, cultural and industrial achievements, and even the army and soldiers. Indeed many Shana Tova cards from the early years of the State of Israel show soldiers as an example of the revival of the Jewish people in their own land. It is interesting to note that European Shana Tova cards portrayed Jewish soldiers in armies such as the Prussian army. These images represented the new, powerful Jew who was loyalty to his country.
Shana Tova cards are a souvenir of times when communication was far more difficult. Receiving a card from friends and family far away was a major family event. However with the development of more efficient communication devices such as telephones, the internet and mobile phones, the popularity of Shana Tova cards has declined.
The National Library of Israel collects Jewish memories and traditions and has also accumulated a large collection of Shana Tova cards that document the life of the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in Israel.