|Rabbis on Stamps
“Rabbis on Stamps” is an attempt to gather together in one place all depictions of rabbis on stamps. There have been several attempts to gather together all Jewish stamps on specific topics. See, for example, M. Arbell, Spanish and Portuguese Jews on Postage Stamps [= Los djudios de Espanya i Portugal en la filatelia mundial], Jerusalem, 1988; and F. Berkovich, Jewish Chess Masters on Stamps, Jefferson (North Carolina), 2000. More ambitious attempts have been made to list all Jewish stamps, arranged topically on any and all subjects. See, e.g., J.H. Richter, Judaica on Postage Stamps, Ann Arbor, 1974; and the magnificently produced volume by R.L. Eisenberg, The Jewish World in Stamps, Rockville (Maryland), 2002. Richter’s volume includes approximately 11 samples of rabbis on stamps. The Eisenberg volume, published almost 20 years later, lists approximately 23 samples of rabbis on stamps. This site gathers together some 250 samples of rabbis on stamps!
Our much larger list is due to several important factors:
1. Our goal has been to gather together all rabbis on stamps. No earlier work had this specific goal, and thus the goal was neither pursued nor realized.
2. Our attempt was made in 2010, when more stamps were available than in any earlier period.
3. All previous works have confined their efforts largely (or: exclusively) to postage stamps, i.e., to stamps authorized, printed, and sold by governments for the payment of postage. We have included label stamps, i.e., unauthorized stamps printed privately, and used primarily for fundraising by charitable organizations, for promotion of ideological or political causes, and for publicity purposes.
4. We have deliberately defined “rabbis on stamps” broadly, to include as many items as possible. Thus:
a. Any stamp that depicts an identified rabbi, or mentions the name of a rabbi, is included in our collection.
b. Even if the title “rabbi” does not appear on the stamp, but the stamp depicts someone generally recognized as a rabbi, such as the Rambam, it is included in our collection.
c. All first day covers, cacheted covers, or souvenir sheets that depict a rabbi, or mention the name of a rabbi, even if the stamp itself neither depicts nor mentions a rabbi, are included in our collection.
d. All depictions of rabbis on stamps are included, even if the depiction is imaginary. Thus, all stamps with depictions of Rashi and Rambam are included, even though the depictions are clearly imaginary.
e. All depictions of rabbis on stamps, or mention of the names of rabbis on stamps, are included regardless of their Jewish affiliation. It is not our purpose to investigate the legitimacy of a particular rabbi’s ordination. For our purposes, it suffices that the stamp identifies the person depicted, or the name listed, as a rabbi. Indeed, for our purposes it will suffice that the person mentioned on the stamp is known to have been an ordained rabbi, or is generally recognized – for example, by his entry in Encyclopaedia Judaica – as a rabbi.
f. We have excluded “generic” rabbis, i.e. depictions on stamps of imaginary rabbis who are not and cannot be identified (such as appear on stamps depicting Chagall paintings). We have also excluded famous Jewish figures (mostly philosophers) who were not ordained rabbis, who never functioned as rabbis, and who did not contribute primarily to rabbinic literature. Thus Benedict Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, and Martin Buber, significant as they were, are not included in “rabbis on stamps.” Indeed, in their respective entries in Encyclopaedia Judaica, none is identified as a rabbi. Nonetheless, one can certainly mount a case to include Mendelssohn on a listing of rabbis on stamps. He was often referred to as מוהר"ר; he wrote letters of approbation for rabbinic works (something not ordinarily done by laymen); and at least one posek ruled that by reciting Mendelssohn’s translation of the Torah (for those not adept at reading Rashi’s commentary on the Torah), one has fulfilled the rabbinic obligation of שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום, no small matter. As a compromise solution, we have decided to include the Mendelssohn stamp here, but not on the official listing of rabbis on stamps.
g. Indeed, we have included many borderline cases, such as persons who were popularly called “rabbi,” even though they weren’t officially rabbis; rabbis who were ordained but never functioned as rabbis; and the like. The goal has been to include as many names as possible. With regard to rabbis on stamps, we agree fully with Edwin Markham:
He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
5. Click on any stamp in order to enlarge it.
6. The stamps are arranged by rabbi, in chronological order. Thus, the list opens with Rabbi Joshua b. Hananiah, a second century C.E. rabbi, and closes with Rabbi Yonah Metzger, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, alive and well in the 21st century. In every entry, we have listed the name of the rabbi, the date of his death (or birth, if still living), the country of origin of the stamp, and the year of publication of the stamp. When a rabbi is depicted on a label stamp, the letters LS [= label stamp] appear after the date of death of the rabbi, almost always without identification of the country of origin of the stamp. These are often USA, Palestine, or Israel, but since no catalogue of label stamps exists, we must leave it for others to make the proper identifications. We simply write n.p. [= no place]. Similarly, in the case of the label stamps, we almost never give the year of publication, even when we think we know what it is. We simply write n.d [= no date]. On label stamps printed by the Jewish National Fund [= קרן קיימת לישראל], the letters JNF appear in place of LS, followed by the year of publication. Whenever a first day cover is presented, the entry includes the letters FDC [= first day cover] after the date of death of the rabbi. Whenever a souvenir sheet is presented, the entry includes the letters SS [= souvenir sheet] after the date of death of the rabbi.
7. Properly done, each stamp listed should be catalogued by year of publication, size, color, denomination, imprints (if any), professional catalogue number, and the like. We have neither the ability nor the inclination to undertake such a massive and painstaking project. Should our listing of rabbis on stamps stimulate a professional philatelist to undertake such a project, והיה זה שכרי.
8. This, at best, is a provisional listing of rabbis on stamps. We are well aware that many other stamps with depictions of rabbis exist, often with different colors and denominations than the ones included on our list. Unfortunately, those stamps have not reached us. We have only listed stamps in the Leiman Library, or if not in the Library, stamps that we have seen, held in our hands, and scanned (often from the collection of my son, R. Akiva Leiman; I am deeply grateful to him for sharing in this project). Readers are encouraged to send in scans of rabbis on stamps that we have missed. We will be delighted to post them with full acknowledgement.
9. We believe that educators will find these stamps useful as teaching aids. For iconographers, they provide yet another source for the study of rabbinic iconography. For social historians, they provide a window into the mindset of a specific culture. Thus, using Israeli stamps as an example, it is important to assess which rabbis were remembered on stamps, which were ignored, and why.
10. Since we are perhaps the first to include label stamps in a catalogue of rabbis on stamps, we include in an appendix label stamps commemorating the life of Sarah Schenierer (d. 1935). While certainly not a rabbi (she never perceived of herself as a rabbi; none of her contemporaries ever imagined that she was a rabbi), Sarah Schenierer was a Jewish educator of no less import than many of the rabbis – who were primarily Jewish educators – who are included on the list of rabbis on stamps. These label stamps are rare and merit being recorded in an appendix to rabbis on stamps.
Rabbis on Stamps (pp. 1-13)