Shana Tova, Alfred Dreyfus, 1901
This is a Shana Tova card with a photograph of Alfred Dreyfus in the centre. This photograph, printed in 1901, includes wishes for the Jewish New Year in different languages: Hebrew, English, German and Yiddish. Below the picture of Dreyfus is his name in Yiddish—".קאפיטאן אלפרעד דרייפוס"
This is one of a series of Shana Tova cards printed in 1901 (Jewish year 5662) that showed images of people who were important to the Jewish public at the time: Alfred Dreyfus, Emil Zola, Theodore Herzl, Max Nordau, and even the Turkish Sultan.
Alfred Dreyfus was the victim of an anti-Semitic trial that became famous throughout the world. In 1894 Dreyfus, a French-Jewish artillery officer, was accused of treason. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly transferring French military secrets to German spies. He was publicly humiliated and imprisoned on Devil's Island where he spent close to five difficult years.
Eventually the truth prevailed, and evidence proved that Dreyfus had been wrongly accused. Nevertheless, it was only after much pressure from the public and from political figures that the French authorities agreed to reopen the case in 1899. Finally, in 1906, Dreyfus was exonerated, and all the accusations were shown to be false and based on anti-Semitic biases.
The Dreyfus affair is one of the most infamous anti-Semitic episodes of modern times. Not only was the affair initiated by anti-Jewish views, but it caused even more hatred of Jews throughout French and European society. It was for this reason that Dreyfus' retrial and exoneration were so important to the Jews of France and Europe as a whole. Throughout the Jewish world, Dreyfus became a role model, proving that it is possible to fight anti-Semitism and injustice. This is perhaps why the photograph of the French officer appeared on this Shana Tova card at the beginning of the twentieth century.
This Shana Tova card is one of an extensive collection of cards in the National Library of Israel. There is also a large collection of items regarding the Dreyfus Affair and private items that belonged to Dreyfus, such as his wedding contract (Ketubah) and private letters sent by his wife while he was in prison.
This Shana Tova card is an example of the type of cards printed at the beginning of the twentieth century. The design on the card shows Alfred Dreyfus as a Jewish hero who inspired the Jewish world at this time.
In Jewish History lessons this card, together with others from the NLI collections, could offer a glimpse of the lives and ideas of Jews who lived in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. This card could also be an interesting way to present anti-Semitism in Europe and the difficulties Jews faced in attempting to integrate into society at this time.
In Jewish Studies, before Rosh Hashanah, this and others examples of Shana Tova cards could trigger interesting discussions about the New Year. Likewise, this and other cards could provide inspiration for creative Art projects.
Describe the card. Whose photograph is in the centre of the card?
Who was Alfred Dreyfus? What event made him famous throughout the Jewish world?
Why was the Dreyfus Affair so significant to the Jews of Europe? How did it influence Jewish and Zionist thinkers such as Theodore Herzl?
Why do you think the photograph of Dreyfus was included in this Shana Tova card?
What text is written on the card? In which languages is the text written? Why?
Design a Shana Tova card of your own. What will you draw on the card? Will you add portraits of famous people? Which ones? What other elements will you add? Which elements are relevant for a Shana Tova card? Which wishes will you add to the card?
Think of what you would like to wish for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.