IN OUR AGE OF advanced computer technology, the picture postcard is a charming vestige of the past. Originally known as a “postal card,” it was created in 1869. This innovation, which afforded the opportunity to send mail inexpensively, soon became the most common and reliable method for communicating brief personal messages.

Initially, both sides of the card remained blank: The front contained the message, while the back was used for the address. In 1889, private publishers in Germany began issuing postcards with attractive pictures printed on the front side. The popularity of these picture postcards increased steadily, and from 1898 until 1918, a period known as the “Golden Age of the Postcard,” countless picture postcards were produced and mailed throughout the world. Seeking to capitalize on this trend, publishers produced large sets of picture postcards that featured a seemingly endless variety of subject matter. These sets were avidly purchased, collected and traded by collectors.
It was within this larger popular context that the Jewish postcards in this exhibition were produced. European and American Jews participated fully in the “postcard craze.” Jewish publishers primarily in Germany, Poland, the United States, Greece and Palestine, the centers of Hebrew printing at that time, made special efforts to provide the Jewish public with appropriate versions of the popular general postcards.

Jewish postcards were an almost immediate documentation of important aspects of Jewish life in the early twentieth century: emigration from Europe and arrival in the New World, synagogues, and Zionism to name a few. As such, they are a fascinating visual resource for the study of Jewish history.

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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 / About the Exhibition