Ethnographic Postcards
“EXOTIC” JEWISH IMAGES were also popular with European Jews. Here, too, it is possible to point to contemporary postcards in the general world. The Orientalist phenomenon in late-nineteenth-century European culture led to postcards showing foreign sites and types during the Golden Age. In Jewish circles, this translated into the “discovery” of lesser known Jewish groups. Thus, many cards were illustrated with photographs of Jews from Yemen, Bukhara and Caucasia dressed in their colorful native garb.

The photographers also documented the Ashkenazim of Europe, visually recording the Jewish quarters and daily life of their inhabitants, as well as significant events. Among some of the most striking images of Ashkenazic life is a postcard depicting a Jewish home after the 1903 pogroms in Kishinev and a 1914 card that features prayer services in the field for Jewish German officers during World War I. These images were then widely distributed on postcards, providing European and American Jews with a glimpse into the far corners of the Jewish world, which in many instances have vanished.

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All images are courtesy of  The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York / © Copyright 2008