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Shana Tova Cards, 1920
Somewhat surprisingly, many Shana Tova cards carry depictions of the historical events of the past hundred years, decidedly one of the stormiest periods in Jewish history. The personal New Year’s message sent in many such cards was accompanied by a nationalistic motto with which presumably both sender and receiver identified. All the sender had to do to make an ideological statement was to sign his name beneath the slogan of his choice and address the envelope. The result is a veritable visual overview of the key events of contemporary Jewish history.
The massive migration of Eastern European Jewry to the United States is reflected in numerous Shana Tova cards from the early decades of the last century. An immigrant ship is a frequent motif on these cards, which are consequently referred to as shifskarte. The Statue of Liberty or some other female figure is often depicted welcoming the crushed, dejected newcomers with open arms. This warm, welcoming message, was in fact little more than wishful thinking on the part of American Jewry hoping to encourage their persecuted brethren in Poland and Russia to join them. In fact, opposition to this type of mass immigration was building up within the United States administration, and from the late 1920’s severe restrictions were placed on Jewish immigration. From then on, many of the migrants turned eastward – in the direction of Israel.