NEWPORT – The U.S. Postal Service issued its new Hanukkah stamp, a joint issue with Israel, on Oct. 16 at Touro Synagogue.
The American and Israeli stamps share the same artwork, a papercut created by the American artist Tamar Fishman.
During the issuance ceremony, Postal Service Judicial Officer Gary Shapiro observed that papercutting is a traditional Jewish art, and he described Fishman’s techniques and other symbols in the artwork, which is on display in the Loeb Visitors Center at the synagogue.
“Starting today, this work of art celebrating the Jewish Festival of Lights will travel on millions of letters and packages, throughout America and around the world,” Shapiro said.
Picking up on this theme, Israel Post Philatelic Service Director Elhanan Shapira discussed how all stamps are symbols of their countries and portray messages that travel the world. He noted the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel since President Harry Truman recognized the Jewish state. He also said that Hanukkah celebrates the victory of good over evil and justice over injustice, which are key values in both nations.
The ceremony took place in America’s oldest synagogue building, the 254-year-old Touro Synagogue. The synagogue’s centrally-located bimah was filled with video and audio equipment as the ceremony was streamed on Facebook to the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, where Ambassador David Friedman and Israeli officials watched.
Bea Schlessinger Ross, a longtime director of the synagogue, welcomed everyone, and a couple of members added to the official program by leading an impromptu Shehecheyanu, a blessing recited when doing something for the first time.
Ethel Kessler designed the American stamp. The Israeli stamp, while sharing the same papercut, has an additional tab at the bottom. No picture of it was available at the ceremony.
This new stamp, though one of several that the U.S. Postal Service has produced to celebrate Hanukkah, is only the second to be issued jointly with Israel. Touro Synagogue itself was depicted on an American stamp in 1982.
The U.S. Postal Service had a pop-up stamp store at the event. Stamp collectors purchased sheets of stamps and First Day Covers, which have cancellation marks indicating that they were used on the first day of issue. Walter Horowitz, a resident of South County, created his own cachet (printed design) for envelopes to which the new stamp was affixed for the first-day cancellation. This combination of envelope, new stamp and first-day cancellation is known as a First Day Cover.
The artist and stamp designer were both in attendance and were kept busy signing the First Day Covers and the ceremony programs.
Customers can purchase the new Hanukkah stamp and other philatelic products through the Postal Store at usps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), or at post offices nationwide.
LARRY KATZ (lkatz @jewishallianceri.org) is the director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and a longtime stamp collector.