As part of its 40th anniversary celebrations, the New Synagogue on McDonald Street in Netanya will be hosting what is being touted as a “One-Day Judaica Postcard Exhibition,” composed of items lent by collector Leo Smolar, on March 3.Smolar made aliya in 1978 from Helsinki, Finland, where he was active in the Jewish youth group, sports organizations and volunteer work. A graduate of Helsinki University, he first worked in pharmaceutical product development, and in this country concentrated on marketing industrial and pharmaceutical chemicals from international suppliers to local industries.
During the Six Day War, Smolar came to Israel to volunteer, and subsequently visited frequently.He settled in Netanya with his wife, daughter and son, and today, he says, he is “blessed with three grandchildren.” He was a member of Netanya’s New Synagogue until his move to Pardesiya in 1999.Since Smolar retired three years ago, he spends his time volunteering and enjoys several hobbies, among them enlarging his collection of Judaica postcards.Smolar explains that he has been collecting postcards for over 30 years; he started out collecting stamps as a boy, which led to his specialization in Judaica stamps. “But I realized that finding Judaica postcards would be more of a challenge,” he says.The postcard he paid the most for ($90) is one that depicts France’s Strasbourg Synagogue. “It looks very nice on the postcard,” notes Smolar, “but today all that is left of it is a small sign.”Auctions are one of the places Smolar shops for his rare vintage items. The thing about auctions, he says, is that prices can go very high.
A collector, he explains, tries to find cards from all kinds of sources.“You can pick them up by chance at a flea market or at a philatelic shop. Collectors also usually have friends who are collectors, too, and sometimes they exchange cards. It is very much like collecting stamps, but there are less postcard collectors.”The flea markets he recommends are in Tel Aviv – in Jaffa and on Dizengoff Street, near the center.“There is a market,” he says, “and there is always someone who has postcards.” He looks for Scandinavian synagogues in particular, “because they are hard to find. There are not many synagogues and therefore, not many postcards of them.”Smolar says, “In philatelic shops you can find a lot of cards that are not organized, [and there are postcards of synagogues] even in countries where there are [officially] no Jews.” In Finland he has a particular shop he can spend hours in. “The cards are all in boxes and not organized in any way. Sometimes I can spend three or four days rummaging through, and even after all that, just come out with one or two cards.”As a young boy, he collected autographs.“It all started because I was a sportsman,” he says. “I was very interested in soccer. I used to write to sportsmen all over the world,” and include a stamped self-addressed envelope with each letter, “and many of them sent me their pictures, signed.”Asked to identify the root of his passion, Smolar explains that he collects the cards “because I can see the history of the Jews in them, especially when you see the postcards of the synagogues that were destroyed during the [Second World] War.”The emphasis of his collection is “mainly synagogues, as well as Torah topics and tombs of the matriarchs and patriarchs, and even Rosh Hashana greeting postcards.” He is not tempted to explore the field of Rosh Hashana greeting cards as a whole because, he says, there are too many of them. “So there is no limit, and there is no future in it.”
Apart from philatelic shops and flea markets, Smolar says Judaica postcards can also be found at Jewish communal and synagogue offices (these can sometimes be the same), antique booksellers and book fairs.“Not every synagogue has postcards, but it used to be a popular way of publicizing [the house of worship] as well as helping them raise funds for it.”Smolar says postcards with Tanach topics are usually by non-Jewish artists, and that in Finland, those with biblical verses are manufactured by Christian artists.The One Day Judaica Postcards Exhibition on March 3, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., will be followed by a lecture by Leo Smolar at 8 p.m. Venue: Social Hall, The New Synagogue, 7 McDonald Street, Netanya; NIS 30 including lecture. Free for students and school classes (exhibition only). For more information, contact Jacques Korolnyk at 054-752- 2179.