Rosh Hashanah Greetings 2018/5779

Posted on September 6th, 2018 by

A blog post by Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

This coming Sunday evening, September 9th, Jewish people from all over the world will be celebrating the Jewish New Year! Rosh Hashanah (literally meaning the “head” of the year) is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It’s customary to extend greetings and sentiments to loved ones and friends on the holiday. The tradition of sending Jewish New Year greeting cards dates back to the Middle Ages, predating the Christian New Year card tradition, which only became popular in Europe and the United States during the 19th century!

Holiday greetings often include wishes for good health and a sweet new year. Shana Tova means “a good year” and is often extended to L ’Shana Tova umetuka, which means “To a good and sweet year.”  I wondered about the different New Year’s greetings that were in the JMM’s extensive collection – it turns out we have quite a few cards, and I wanted to share a few that I really liked.

In this 1908 card, a man with a white beard (probably symbolizing a rabbi) is blowing a shofar (ram’s horn) which is an important part of the Rosh Hashanah service.  The man is wearing white which is traditionally worn during the High Holidays to reflect the search for inner purity. I thought that this image really captured the essence of the holiday. JMM 1983.019.016b

I loved this card.  There is so much symbolism in the card – from the Statute of Liberty to the inclusion of both the American flag and the flag of Israel.  Interestingly, this card is from the 1940s – possibly before the State of Israel was officially established. One can infer that the sender of the card identified as both an American patriot and a supporter of Zionism. JMM 1990.014.001

Moses in Basket, ca.1911, addressed to the Hecht Family and Baby Hannah, JMM 1997.45.9

Children with Flowers ca 1912, addressed to Baby Hannah Hecht, JMM 1997.045.010

I thought that the two New Year’s greetings above were so sweet – especially since they were sent in sequential years (1911, 1912) to the Hecht Family and Baby Hannah of Havre de Grace, Maryland. The first postcard shows the traditional bible scene of Baby Moses and Miriam on the River Nile and is printed with Hebrew and German.  The second postcard, which is addressed only to Baby Hannah, features adorable children and flowers along with wishes for a New Year written in both Hebrew and English.

This greeting card looked very familiar to me with its mosaic pattern containing a menorah, torah scroll and shofar.  The thing that most caught my eye was that the familiar greeting of Shana Tova was not used.  Instead, the Hebrew phrase Hayom Harat Olam was used, which means “Today is the (birth) day of the world,” a prayer that traces back to Babylonian times and was included in the prayer book of Maimonides! JMM 2008.056.006

Let’s fast forward to 2018.  It is still customary to send greeting cards, however the way in which they are sent are very different than 100 years ago.  The Internet and social media outlets allow us to send our own personal messages to those we love and care about, like this Paperless Post e-card.

When I first got married my husband and I sent out our own greetings to friends and family through snail mail.  Today, we create our own cards to reflect our hopes and dreams for the New Year! I hope you enjoy Floyd modeling with our 2017 Alon Family Rosh Hashanah Card.

Happy New Year!  Chag Sameach!  Gut Yontiff and L’Shanah Tova…….  May we all be inscribed and sealed for a for a good year!

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Once Upon a Time…11.24.2018

Posted on August 7th, 2018 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

JMM 2011.29.2018

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: November 24, 2018

PastPerfect Accession #: 2011.029.208

Status: Unidentified – do you recognize this young participant lighting candles at a c. 1980 Levindale Hanukkah party?

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The Sweetness of a New Year

Posted on August 6th, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. For more posts from Jessica, click HERE.

As the fall Jewish holidays approach, Esther’s Place is gradually transforming its displays to feature beautiful Kiddush cup-candleholder sets, Rosh Hashanah educational toys, shofars, honey pots, and decorative challah covers. As I plan these displays, I’m also exploring and learning about the holidays for the first time.

The first of the upcoming holidays is Rosh Hashanah, a two-day holiday marking the Jewish New Year and starting on the first day of the Hebrew month Tishrei (in 2018, it begins at sundown on September 9). Rosh Hashanah seems like a good place to begin my education because the concept of a New Year is both joyous and relatable; while the specifics of Rosh Hashanah may be unfamiliar to me, the basic process of reflecting on a year lived and looking ahead to the coming year is personally and universally powerful.

Unsurprisingly, as JMM shop assistant, I’m particularly intrigued by the food and the rituals. I learn that at Rosh Hashanah, the challah (bread) is baked in a round shape to symbolize the continuous cycle of life and dipped in honey to express hope for a sweet New Year. The ritual blowing of the shofar (the hollowed horn of a kosher animal) during prayers also speaks to themes of continuity and renewal. Rosh Hashanah is an opportunity for atonement and reflection.

Our burgeoning shofar display at Esther’s Place.

Reflecting on this, I recall my own childhood spent celebrating Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year) with my immediate family, my childhood hometown’s local Chinese Association, and frequently, my aunts and grandma from Malaysia—who often visited at this time of year.

Chinese New Year for my family always included a “steamboat” meal. Steamboat is similar to fondue, where a hot soup is heated in the central steamboat vessel while those around the table dip and cook various chosen morsels of meat, vegetables, and seafood. Though I never knew the reason for our steamboat tradition at the time, a quick Google search taught me that the steamboat’s round shape symbolizes “reunion” and marks the togetherness of the holiday—a nice parallel to Rosh Hashanah’s round challah and similar emphasis on the family meal.

Another Chinese New Year’s tradition for me was the exchange of “red packets”—money-stuffed envelopes traditionally gifted to the children of the family; yes, it’s a great time of year to be young. My brothers and I would approach our elders and then say a customary Mandarin phrase that basically means: “Happy New Year. Give me the red packet.” Chinese New Year would come to mean a time of extra pocket money and big plans.

Red packet time with my family.

My family would also join local Chinese New Year celebrations organized by the Chinese Association. And frequently, my brother Andrew and I would participate in the festival’s lion dance (pictured below). The festival typically concluded with a deafening firecracker display—a spectacle that filled me with both delight and dread as a young child.

A lion dance performance captured in my family album.

After reflecting on my Chinese New Year memories, I realized the best way to learn is through experience. So this year, I’ll enrich my Jewish education by joining my in-laws’ Rosh Hashanah service at Temple B’nai Shalom in Virginia. I hope this will expand my understanding of the High Holidays as well as deepen my growing personal connection to Judaism.

New Year’s celebrations often bring introspection and restoration—as well as the chance to refresh one’s physical space or holiday supplies. Rituals and ritual objects are so much a part of any holiday and truly help create a home or community. Whether you’re looking for beauty and uniqueness or simplicity and utility, we likely have a great option for you at Esther’s Place, and these are just some of the highlights!

Whatever your own connection to “new year,” I hope that Esther’s Place will evoke for you those special New Year’s feelings of reflection, hope, and sweetness. And if it’s time to update your ritual items, I hope you’ll stop by Esther’s Place and find out what we have to offer.

 

 

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