In the Jewish calendar, autumn is a time of intense ritual life. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the first of the holidays, is joyous but also initiates a ten-day period of intense introspection, repentance, and quest for forgiveness culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Although Yom Kippur concludes the High Holidays, or Days of Awe, the holiday cycle continues as Yom Kippur is followed by the Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles; Shemini Atzeret, the Eighth (Day) of Assembly; and Simchat Torah, (the day of) rejoicing in the Law; in quick succession.
Synagogue worship is central to celebrating the Days of Awe; even Jews who abandon regular Sabbath observance often attend services at this moment of the year. It is not surprising, therefore, that the iconography of these holidays tends to focus on the synagogue and more particularly on the very dramatic blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn. Tashlikh, the symbolic casting away of sins by throwing a piece of bread into a moving body of water, performed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, has also captured the imagination of illustrators. So, too, has the kaporah ceremony, performed between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in which a rooster (or money) is offered to the poor. These symbols endured, although their forms changed in the particular context in which Jews found themselves. The body of water used for tashlikh, for example, could be a small rural creek, the Mediterranean, or the Rhine River.
In a classic example of Jewish acculturation, when the practice of sending Christmas and secular New Year's greeting cards became popular in Europe and the United States in the late nineteenth century, Jewish illustrators and publishers started to produce Rosh Hashanah cards and postcards that reflected the styles and tastes of the secular context in which they were produced. Some illustrated the key moments in the Jewish ritual calendar, while others reproduced a well-known painting or engraving of High Holiday synagogue worship, the casting off of sin, or the blowing of the shofar. Yet others use the occasion to emphasize the transmission of Judaism across the generations.
1. Jahres-Panorama (Max Victor, ca.1880). A New Year's greeting in the form of a booklet containing eleven scenes of Jewish customs.
|7. Theodor Breidwiser (1847-1930). Der "Taschlich" am jüdischen Neujahrstage. Wood engraving, 18--?|