Melissa Schiffman
Hadassah Physicians Council

How a Postage Stamp Helps Me Get Through the Christmas Season

Artwork courtesy of Hadassah.
Artwork courtesy of Hadassah.
Photo courtesy of Hadassah.

It is the time of year when I feel overwhelmed by all things Christmas. The tinsel at the grocery store and the piped-in carols at the gas station, remind me of my outsider status as a Jew in the United States. With rising antisemitism in this country and the dark news from Israel, my unease has been magnified this year.

I crave my own community and my own traditions. This year, I found a glimmer of solidarity, believe it or not, at the post office, in the form of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg (R.B.G.) stamp, a visual symbol to get me through this season.

Released in October 2023, the R.B.G stamp honors the trail-blazing Supreme Court justice, an all-around mensch who advocated for gender equity and workers’ rights. For me, the R.B.G. stamp is a beacon of light and justice. I am putting it on all of my holiday cards this year.

The portrait on the stamp depicts R.B.G. as a mature woman at the height of her power and influence. Her hair is pulled back in a no-nonsense style. She wears glasses and pearl earrings. Her trademark white lacy collar blazes against the dark of her judicial robe. Her stern face directly confronts us. We can surmise that she is thinking deep thoughts about equality and truth.

This image of R.B.G. is, to me, a refreshing contrast to the typical images of women that arrive in my mailbox this time of year. Since Thanksgiving, I have received numerous catalogs filled with women celebrating in glittering cocktail attire or resting sumptuous platters on intricately set tables. The scenes are artful, excessive, and seem completely foreign to me.

Then there are the holiday cards, with photos of families in color-coordinated outfits at the beach or in chunky sweaters by a tree. These cards are a nice tradition, but it still feels unfamiliar. I grew up in a family with fairly modest Hanukkah customs. We may have received greetings from a distant relative or friend, but I did not experience the full-on Christmas card industry.

These days, I receive a lot of these holiday cards. My husband was raised Christian, with a large extended family. Every year, we receive many pictorial greetings, often with tales of the year’s births, accomplishments and travels. I know that Christmas cards are for smiling and putting your best foot forward. But as a Jew — especially this year — I feel a tension behind the brightest grins my own family can muster. My mind lingers on reports of antisemitism in my city and at my college alma mater. My heart clenches as I wave to the guard when I drop my sons off at Sunday morning Hebrew school.

The “Holly Jolly” jingles in the air feel a little more off than usual, but I go through all the motions. I purchase a gift for the office white elephant party. I address my own “Happy Holiday” cards to reciprocate with my husband’s family and show off our growing boys. No matching pajamas for us or studio staging, but this year, I found a nice photo of the four of us smiling while on a fall hike. It is a fond memory of a relaxed, beautiful afternoon. But does it represent the real us?

Somehow, I feel a bit better when I affix an R.B.G. stamp to each envelope. In a sea of holiday commercialism, the honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg has a prominent place on those holiday envelopes, “standing up” for Jewish values. She was famous for displaying, on the wall of her Supreme Court chambers, a quote from Deuteronomy — “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” Using the R.B.G. stamp is a way for me to broadcast that, as a woman and a Jew, I am here. I contribute. I, too, want to fight to make the world a better place for my people and for all.

My true holiday wish this December is not for more sparkle, but for more goodness in the world.

About the Author
Melissa Schiffman is a primary care physician, writer and avid reader who lives in the Philadelphia region with her husband and two sons. She has written for Kveller, Doximity, and KevinMD and is a member of the Hadassah Physicians Council and the Hadassah Writers' Circle.
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