On Yiddish Postage:

Yiddish Stamps Featured in Israeli and Topical Judaica Philately

Alec Fox

Introduction

This presentation on Yiddish stamps, “On Yiddish Postage: Yiddish Stamps Featured in Israeli and Topical Judaica Philately,” strives to bring together an inclusive catalogue of Yiddish stamps. This project was the result of research and work done in a religion class at Emory University to find Yiddish stamps – from throughout the world and over the past couple of centuries – and see the significance they have had on a culture and a country. While the essence of the Ashkenazic experience in Eastern Europe was that the Jews never had any kind of governmental sovereignty, Yiddish stamps were still found and discovered  – part of what makes this project so interesting and research-intensive.

The first step in the process was to create a stampchart. The Yiddish Stampchart is a place for all Yiddish stamps to be assembled and organized. While in no particular order, the Stampchart gives details such as date of issue, Scott numbers, description, and images. There are also many PDF images embedded in the Yiddish Stampchart with both photos and information on several, if not all, of the stamps. To see these, expand the PDF from the bottom left corner. When finished looking at the PDF, reduce the image from the bottom left corner.

The second step was to create categories for the Yiddish Stampchart in order to organize them better. The Stampchart is broken into various categories: A is “Yiddish,” B is either “Culture” or “Politics,” and C is a breakdown of B, for example, “Theater” or “Political Slogans,” respectively. These categories help to frame the basics and set the foundations for Yiddish stamp exploration.

The third step was summarizing, in a coherent and unified manner, all of the information from the Yiddish Stampchart. The List of Yiddish Stamps, the Analysis of the Categories, and and Explications of Selected Stamps create the backbone of the synthesized information of Yiddish philately. All of this can be seen below.

Finally, without the help of many others, this Yiddish Stampchart would not have been possible. Those include Leo Greenbaum at YIVO, Miriam Udel, Maurice Glicksman, Charles Wildstein, Peter Keeda, Claude Wainstain, Sonny Kosky, Ralph Lanesman, and Reuben Mowszowski. Special thanks to David Blumenthal for his fearless direction, passion for philately, and grasp of category knowledge and to Gary Goodman for his ability to bring me in touch with scholars, collectors, and philatelists throughout the globe.

List of Yiddish Stamps

(The list follows the order in the Yiddish Stampchart.)

1.     Russia, 1959, Shalom Aleichem

This Russian stamp was issued to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Shalom Aleichem (1859-1916), a leading Yiddish author and playwright. (For further information, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sholem_Aleichem.)

2.     Romania, 2009, The Yiddish Theater Romania – Joint Issue

This stamp was issued to honor The Yiddish Theatre Iasi (1876), as well as Abraham Goldfaden (1840-1908), a Russian-born Jewish poet, playwright, stage director and actor, in the languages Yiddish and Hebrew. An author of some 40 plays, Goldfaden is considered the father of the Jewish modern theatre. (For further information, see: http://english.israelphilately.org.il/stamps/stamp.asp?id=2418. See also below, Explication.)

3.     Belarus, 2004, Heynt

In this painting by Yehuda Pen (1854-1937), a Jewish-Belarusian artist-painter, a teacher, and an outstanding figure of the Jewish Renaissance in Belarus art of the 20th century, one can note a watchmaker reading the Yiddish newspaper: “Heynt.” (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehuda_Pen. See also below, Explication.)

4.     Israel, 2002, Ladino and Yiddish: Die Meguile

While there is a Ladino stamp, honoring the Judaeo-Spanish variety, there is also a Yiddish stamp called “Die Meguile,” honoring the Yiddish language. Both the Ladino stamp and the Yiddish stamp are part of a short set on “Jewish Languages.” (For further information, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaeo-Spanish and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish. See also below, Explication.)

5.     Italy, 2000, Yiddishland

This Italian stamp has a cancellation: TRIESTE “Yiddishland,” an exhibit at a museum. The cancellation reads: “Exhibition of Post Cards, Trieste, Jan. 18 – Apr. 30, 2000, Museum of the Jewish Community of Trieste.” This was, then, an exhibition organized by the Jewish community that was honored by a cancellation mark of the Trieste post office.

6.     Poland, 1918, Stodpost Luboml

This Polish stamp has the Yiddish (one of its four languages): “Stodpost Luboml.” (For further information, see http://www.luboml.org/.)

7.     Poland, 1988, Wiktor Alter and Henryk Erlich

This 1988, underground-Solidarnocz stamp in Yiddish shows "Wiktor Alter" (1890-1943; Jewish socialist activist and publicist of the Bund) and "Henryk Erlich" (1882-1942; activist of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Jewish Bund). (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Alter and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henryk_Erlich.)

 

8.     Romania, 1957, “Sholem un Freuntshaft”

 

Triangularly shaped, this Romanian stamp “Sholem un Freuntshaft,” Yiddish for “peace and friendship,” is one of the languages included on the tab. The French text on the tab (see Yiddish Stampchart) reads: “A thousand years ago, in the Rhine valley, Yiddish was born. A mixture of medieval German, Hebrew, and old French, it was written phonetically in Hebrew characters. As it migrated to the East, this idiom modified itself: its grammar was simplified and its syntax borrowed from Slavic languages. Generations of poets, novelists, and essayists conferred on Yiddish, already a language apart, its noble literature. However, the brutal disappearance of its living source of expression in Eastern Europe reduced it to the level of a folkloric remnant. Today, when two strange Jews meet, it is in English that they speak, like everyone else. These dividers [? tabs] from 1957, marginal Romanian vignettes, nostalgic and having no value, testify to the time when ‘Peace and Brotherhood’ were still spoken in Yiddish.” (My thanks to Prof. Blumenthal for the translation.)

 

9.     Romania, 1948, Ikuf Blatter

 

This FDC Cover shows the Yiddish newspaper "Ikuf Blatter" on the bottom left. In 1948, from Sept. 12-19, the Romanian government celebrated a “Week of the Press” by issuing a set of four stamps. They also issued a First Day Cover entitled “The Press in the Service of the People.” The FDC contains the mastheads of several newspapers in various languages, among them “Ikuf Blatter,” apparently a Yiddish newspaper then published in Romania. It is in the lower right hand corner of the FDC.

 

10.  Soviet Union, 1938, “Workers of the World Unite”

 

This May 1938 phrase in Yiddish is one of the languages on the coast of the arms of Bielorussia: “Workers of the World Unite.” (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers_of_the_world,_unite!)

 

11.  Romania, 1959, Shalom Aleichem

 

This Romanian stamp was issued to commemorate Shalom Aleichem (1859-1916), a leading Yiddish author and playwright, 100 years after his birth. (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sholem_Aleichem.)

12.  Ukraine, 2009, Shalom Aleichem

This Ukrainian stamp was issued to commemorate Shalom Aleichem (1859-1916), a leading Yiddish author and playwright, 150 years after his birth. (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sholem_Aleichem.)

13.  United States, 2008, Bashert

A self-made, Jewish wedding invitation stamp, “bashert” means “soul-mate” in Yiddish. This a customized stamp that was personalized and made independently. The US Postal service allows for this option, permitting people to create their own customized stamps. (For further information, see http://www.usps.com/postagesolutions/customizedpostage.htm and http://www.zazzle.com/wedding_engagement_stamp_postage-172115914694864676.)

14.  USSR, 1933, Birobidjan

 

This Soviet stamp depicts a scene of a worker and farm machinery at the so-called Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidjan (Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia). (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birobidzhan. See also below, Explication.)

 

15.  Israel, 1959, Shalom Aleichem

 

This Israeli stamp was issued to commemorate Shalom Aleichem (1859-1916), a leading Yiddish author and playwright, 100 years after his birth. (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sholem_Aleichem.)

16.  Russia, 2010, Birobidjan

A 2010 Russian stamp was released commemorating Birobidjan. For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birobidzhan.)

Analysis of the Categories

(The numbers in parentheses refer back to the List of Yiddish Stamps, above.)

A = Yiddish

B = Culture

            C = Shalom Aleichem (1, 11, 12, 15)

            C = theater (2)

            C = language (4) -- Die Meguile

            C = exhibit (5) -- Yiddishland

            C = popular culture (13) -- Bashert

B = Politics

C = Luboml (6)

            C = Alter-Erlich (7)

            C = political slogans (8,10) -- “Sholem un Freuntshaft”; “Workers of the World, Unite”

            C = Birobidjan (14, 16)

            C = the press (3,9) -- Heynt, Ikuf Blatter

 

Explication of Selected Stamps

Shalom Aleichem

First, it is important to note that there are four stamps – of 16 stamps – honoring Shalom Aleichem, celebrating and commemorating either 100 years or 150 years after his birth. With stamps from Israel, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine, this Yiddish author and playwright had an effect on Jewish language and culture throughout all of Europe and around the world. (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sholem_Aleichem.)

Romania, 2009, The Yiddish Theater Romania – Joint Issue

This stamp was issued to honor The Yiddish Theatre Iasi (1876), as well as Abraham Goldfaden (1840-1908), a Russian-born Jewish poet, playwright, stage director and actor, in the languages Yiddish and Hebrew. An author of some 40 plays, Goldfaden is considered the father of the Jewish modern theatre. With its red, yellow, and green colors, this stamp exemplifies the importance of theater in Yiddish culture – in both Romania and Israel. From musical comedy to expressionist, from operetta to satiric, one can note the expressive and vivacious aspects of Yiddish theater in this stamp. This stamp commemorates the honor, the history, and the legacy that Yiddish theater has had on influencing the arts and the stage – throughout the world. (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Goldfaden.)

Belarus, 2004, Heynt

In this painting by Yehuda Pen (1854-1937), a Jewish-Belarusian artist-painter, a teacher, and an outstanding figure of the Jewish Renaissance in Belarus art of the 20th century, one can note a watchmaker reading the Yiddish newspaper: “Heynt.” With clocks on the table and on the walls – among several other pieces, tools, and apparatuses – the watchmaker is taking a break from his busy day by being informed and reading “Heynt,” meaning “Day” or “Daily.” Pen crafts and creates this elderly man – who is a master in his discipline – as a hard worker. The painting depicts how this hardworking man takes a break from his labor for some leisure. Staying up to date, being educated and informed, and reading for pleasure were of the utmost importance. (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehuda_Pen. For more on Penn, see the Judaica Newsletter, Jan. 2011, # 62.)

Israel, 2002, Ladino and Yiddish: Die Meguile

While there is a Ladino stamp, honoring the Judaeo-Spanish variety, there is also a Yiddish stamp called “Die Meguile,” honoring the Yiddish language. Both the Ladino stamp and the Yiddish stamp are part of a short set on “Jewish Languages.” This colorful and lively stamp – with its purples, blues, reds, yellows, and oranges – represents how beautiful the Yiddish language was (and still is) and how it evolved, ebbed, and flowed. The stamp also shows the significance of one the most important and influential Jewish varieties – the discourse of Jews in Eastern Europe. Honoring the beautiful language, this Yiddish stamp stresses the importance of Jewish languages and varieties and emphasizes the particular beauty and creativity of Yiddish. (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaeo-Spanish and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish.)

USSR, 1933, Birobidjan

 

This Soviet stamp depicts a scene of a worker and farm machinery at the so-called Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidjan (Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia).  Its black and white colors and monochromatic background, the stamp has a very dark and lugubrious aura – signifying the hard work and unpleasant times of working the farm and dealing with the machinery. The tractor-like vehicle represents the constant work that was being done to for the Soviet Union; endless time, energy, and labor spent working in the autonomous region. Finally, it exemplifies the communist and omnipotent state and its effect on power, labor, and work. (For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birobidzhan.)