Shana Tova card, New York 1910
This is a Rosh Hashana greeting card shows the circle of life in which a character appears in ten stages of his life. The cycle of life begins in the bottom right corner with a baby sitting in a cradle, followed by a toddler taking his first steps at the age of two, a three-year-old boy riding a tricycle, a six year old ready for school, a thirteen-year-old celebrating his Bar Mitzva, twenty years old standing under the wedding canopy with his bride. The next in line are a 30 year old man with a young family, an aristocratic looking 50 year old, a 70 year old bent over with a walking stick and finally a 90 year old with his (great?) grandson. Underneath the figure at each stage is written his current age and the word "Jahr" - years in Yiddish.
The inscription at the top of the postcard reads "Happy New Year" in Hebrew, and "Happy New Year" in English. The postcard was produced in 1910 in New York as part of a series of greetings cards designed for the different festivals. The postcard provides insights to the lives of the Jewish community in the United States at the time. It is possible to assume that this card served Jews that originally came from Eastern Europe, due to the fact that most of the texts are written in Yiddish in Hebrew letters, and not in English. The fine dress of the figures in the images seem to be affluent, presumably not "fresh-off-the-boat" immigrants. They might represent the second or third generation integrated American Jews or they have been included in the design as inspiration for the newer immigrant's inspiration. It is also interesting to compare this postcard of the Jewish immigrants in the United States to those who immigrated to Israel. The immigrants to Israel were usually young individuals and many postcards from Israel at the time show young, strong pioneers farming the land. This postcard, however, focuses on the family in the life circle, with children, parents and even grandparent. This is typical of the Jewish immigration to the States at the beginning of the twentieth century was one of entire family groups.
It is also interesting to see the ages that the different life cycle events occurred one hundred years ago and to compare them to the convention of today. From this card, it seems that the common age for marriage is twenty and it was typical of a Jewish couple to have three children by the age of thirty. The card shows that at the age of six, children (boys?) went to school like in many countries today. However, traditionally boys would start learning the Hebrew alphabet at the age of five, as cited in the Mishna "At five years old [one is fit] for the [study of] Scripture… "(Avot 5:21), and many children in Eastern Europe started the cheder (traditional elementary school) at the age of three.
Conenction to the Parasha
At the start of Parashat Tazriah, the Torah discusses women after childbirth. The importance of families and children is stressed throughout the Torah, with particular reference to women, such as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Hanna who struggled to conceive children.
In a Jewish Studies lesson, this resource can used to discuss many interesting topic. Before Rosh Hashana, teachers could show this Shana Tova card and compare it to others, demonstrating the fact that such cards describe the life and values of the time and the people that created them. Teachers could show this when discussing the Jewish family and the Jewish life cycle especially as during the Bar or Bat Mitzvah year. This resource could also be part of a discussion about Jewish education. Teachers could also use this resource, together with others, when learning about the history of the Jewish community in the United States.
Teachers teaching Jewish history could use this postcard when teaching about Jewish migration from Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth.
Geography teachers could use this resource also when discussing the phenomenon of migration and discuss integration of immigrants to new countries.
An Art lesson could use this resource as an example of Jewish art as can be seen by Shana Tova cards.
What is this image?
When and where was the card created?
What is featured on the card?
What is written on the card?
Which languages appear on the card?
Who are the figures on the postcard?
How are they dressed?
What are they doing?
Reading Between the Lines
What was the purpose of this card?
Why does this card depict the life cycle?
What is the possible connection between this and the New Year?
Why do these different languages appear on the card?
What does this tell us about the life of the people who created and sent this card?
This card was printed in the United States, where the Jewish community was generally based on European immigrants.
Research the migration of Jews from Europe to America.
Why did they leave Europe?
Why did they migrate to the America?
How were they received in America and how was the live of the first generation immigrants?
How are the immigrants dressed, and what does that tell us about their situation?
Do they seem to be integrated in the American society or do they still seem to be influenced by their traditional European customs and
In what way are the steps arranged? What, in your opinion, can we learn from this?
What does this card tell us about the family values at the time?
What examples can you give from the card?
When did children start school, according to this card?
Was this always the case?
When do children start today?
At what stage of the ten stages in the illustration would you like to be now? Explain your choice.
The in the Ethics of the Fathers (5:22 cites ages for different stages in the life cycle. Compare the cycle in this card to that in
Talk to the oldest person you know. Does the letter describe the course of his or her life? If not, draw a comparable card that matches his or her life cycle.
Do you know an American Jewish family?
Where did they arrive to the United States from?
How were there experiences in their early days in the country?
Create a collage of old and new Rosh Hashana cards.
What are their similarities and differences?