“A Jewish Philatelist’s Voyage on the Seven Seas”

(16 September 2011)

Peter Keeda

University of Sydney, Australia



It was a triangulated genesis. In a second-hand bookstore I found They Took to the Sea by Samuel Tokolowsky and I was fascinated as to why we hear so little about Jews involvement in the sea. As it happened I was working in Israel in marketing of bulk products and so I was involved in shipping – ‘Jewish shipping’ – on a daily basis. The hypotenuse of the idea  came from my hobby of collecting stamps which had become so large and unwieldy that I decided that I had to do something about it and what better way, than to specialize. This I soon learnt is called ‘thematic collecting’ and what better theme could I choose than to join three of my interests: Jewish history, Jewish involvement in commerce and migration, and philately? Over the last thirty-five years this Collection has grown into a seven volume Collection which I have named “A Jewish Philatelist’s Voyage on the Seven Seas”. As of July 2011 the Collection contains about 550 items which fill seven albums totalling 550 pages. The Collection has been fully indexed.

Eventually I hope to scan the complete Collection and make it available on-line. This endeavour may take some time as a complete revision of the texts is deemed necessary to ensure that this is a unique and original piece of research.

Attached is a bibliography of most of the references used, although in the early days of the Collection references were not accurately recorded and so it is possible that there are some omissions. The Harvard referencing style has been used in the bibliography.

In mid 2010, while searching the Internet for more items to add to my Collection I came across Professor David Blumenthal’s course, ‘Using Stamps to Explore Religion and Culture’ at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. I also discovered a website he created to make public the research on Israeli and topical Judaica done at Emory (http://davidblumenthal.org/Philatlely.html). By this time I was situated in Sydney, Australia, however, through the miracle of the Internet the barrier of fifteen thousand kilometres soon dissolved.  I was (am) studying towards a Masters degree in Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney and there seemed to be a good fit. I contacted Professor Blumenthal who agreed to supervise my work and, Professor Suzanne Rutland, my professor at the University of Sydney agreed that it would be a worthwhile research topic. By coincidence the two professors were at that time both visiting Jerusalem and soon made contact by way of a local phone call and we all agreed that I would move forward. Such serendipity augured a successful outcome.

Over the next nine months I slowly prepared a Stampchart, following the Emory model, which would fulfil the requirements of Professor Blumenthal’s course. However, as with any good piece of research I soon came upon several hurdles: (1) Up to this point in time the objects of other Stampcharts were stamps but the items of my Collection are a mixture of stamps, covers, postcards and other philatelic ephemera. Professor Blumenthal agreed that this would not change the basic nature of the project and agreed that I should proceed.  (2) All other Stampcharts created at Emory University were based upon the Sol Singer Collection of Philatelic Judaica and so the exhibits of the charts were available to all who could access this amazing Collection. My Collection, however, is situated in Sydney, Australia, so how could staff and students elsewhere (notably in Atlanta, Georgia) easily identify the items of my Collection? By scanning the items they would have visual access to them and by embedding the scans in the Stampchart they would be readily available to anyone who wished to peruse my Stampchart. Scanning and embedding the items was time consuming but not difficult. The next hurdle came a bit later (see ‘Using the Stampchart’ below).

Placing the information into a Stampchart necessitated categorizing all the items. Two major Categories were chosen, ‘theme’ and ‘function’ and these were further broken down to a third Category, ‘activity’. Each of these was sub-divided in into sub-categories, ranging from two to twelve sub-categories. As the work progressed, these categories were refined and the final structure is as follows:

A. Theme

Š            Ancient Israeli History

Š            Far-Flung Places

Š            Israeli Towns and Sites on the Sea

Š            Jewish Heroes

Š            Jewish Shipowners and Managers

Š            Modern Israeli History

Š            Other Jewish History

B. Function                                 C. Activity

Š           Biblical                       – persona, coastal

Š           Civilian                       – ancient,  archaeology, artists, cruise,

                                         hero, milestones, scientific, sport,

                                         training,  settlement

Š           Commercial              -- coastal, fishing, government ,  industry,

                                         pirates. postal, services, shipping lines,

                                         tourism, trading

Š           Confinement                         – British, Australian

Š           Emigration                 – Aliyah, Aliyah Bet, to Americas

Š           Exploratory                 – explorers, navigation

Š           Naval                          – arms, invaders, operations, heroes,

                                    submarine, training


Using the Stampchart

The Stampchart for “A Jewish Philatelist’s Voyage on the Seven Seas” is composed of twenty (20) columns, A-T, as follows:

Columns A-G give the basic reference information as follows:

• Column A – the Item number has no significance other to easily identify a particular item.

• Columns B and C give: Country of issue and Date of issue

• Columns D,E, F – give the IPC, Scott, and Stanley Gibbons catalogue numbers but only if the object of entry is a stamp (or FDC). If  there is an incidental stamp such as on a cover or postcard, but the object is the cover and not the stamp, the relevant stamp catalogue number is given in column J. For some recent Israeli issues the catalogue number was not yet available and so the IPC numbers have been marked “xxxx”/

• Column G – the Scan of an object can be accessed by clicking on top right hand corner of cell. This is where MAC users may have some difficulty.

Columns H-N give the content information as follows:

• Columns H and I give: the Title and the Description as contained in the philatelic material available for the stamp

• Columns J and K give: Additional information and Internet links.

            • Column L gives my first Category: Theme

            • Column M gives my second Category: Function

            • Column N gives my third Category: Activity


Columns O-Q give the philatelic data: Format, Denomination, and Colour


Columns R-T give the locator data in my Collection, “JPVSS” = A Jewish Philatelist’s Voyage on the Seven Seas” which is the seven volumes of the author’s philatelic Collection relating to Jews and the Sea.


This chart was prepared using MSExcel 2007. The incompatibility of MSExcel 2007for MAC users only came to light after the first draft of the stampchart was completed and submitted. MAC-users, therefore, may have difficulties in manipulating the jpg scans that are imbedded in the chart (column G – see above). This is the last ‘barrier’ that I mentioned above, and to date I have not been able to find a solution. So, I added a folder of pdf scans which can be accessed outside of the stampchart. Readers interested in seeing the pdf scans should contact me at keedad@gmail.com or Professor Blumenthal at reldrb@emory.edu. For this inconvenience, I apologise and welcome suggestions as to how to overcome this anomaly.


Further notes: Spelling used is Australian English spelling. Ships’ names are italicised. All columns in the Stampchart have filter tabs added in line 2. For those using MSExcel, this will enable easy filtering (see http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/excel-help/filter-data-in-a-range-or-table-HP010073941.aspx). Similarly, for MSExcel users, all columns can be sorted. To do so, first exclude merged row containing item 125. As an example, the second tab of Stampchart has been sorted according to country (column B).


A Few of My Favourite Items

Item #125, Dov Hoz – envelope from Aliyah Bet ship with ship’s postmark; most

            unusual and quite rare; the envelope contains a short letter written in Yiddish.

Items #295-301, Steinbach envelopes – a series of envelopes sent by Markus

Steinbach from various destinations  to Morris Steinbach in New York; by

tracing the postmarks and postal addresses I have surmised that Markus fled

Austria at the outbreak of WWII, made his way to Shanghai where he was in a

 refugee camp, managed to get to Israel in 1949 and then went back to

 Austria in 1951. I have not been able to verify this information nor trace the

 Steinbach family.

item #198, Mauritius – an envelope posted June 1941 from the British internment

            camp in Mauritius.

item #88, Civitavecchia  a card relating to the Jewish maritime training school in

 Italy prior to WWII.

item #238, Cherbourg – a card relating to the amazing feat of the Israelis ‘smuggling’

 five gun boats out of France.

item #237, Dakar – rare souvenir sheet commemorating the tragic loss of the

 submarine Dakar; indicative of the high price of Israel’s security.

item #44, Ballin – rare ‘essay’ of stamp design to commemorate the Jewish shipping

 magnate Albert Ballin.

item #170, Jaffa – hand painted postcard from 1902.


A Final Word

I am well aware that I have not covered all possibilities of ‘Jews and the Sea’ in this Collection and I welcome further information and philatelic items (by way of swap or sale) that I could include.

Peter Keeda





Books and articles

Arbell, Mordechai (2002) The Jewish nation of the Caribbean. The Spanish-Portuguese Jewish settlements in the Caribbean and the Guianas, Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing House.

 Avigad, Nahman (1982) ‘A Hebrew seal depicting a sailing ship’, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 246, Spring, pp. 59-62.

Azaryahu, Maoz (2008) ‘The formation of the “Hebrew sea” in pre-state Israel’, The Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, vol. 7, issue 3, pp. 251-267.

Bernardini, Paolo and Fiering, Norman (eds.) (2001) Expansion of Europe to the west 1450 to 1800, New York: Berghahn Books.

Bernstein, Arnold (2001) Ein Jüdischer Reeder, Hamburg: Convent Verlag.

Cesarani, David (2002) Port Jews. Jewish communities in cosmopolitan maritime trading centres, 1550-1950, Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass.

Eisenberg, Ronald L. (2002) The Jewish world in stamps, Rockville, Maryland: Schreiber Publishing.

Epstein, Doris Strub (2006) ‘Little known fact: Venezuela opened its doors to Jewish refugees in World War II’, The Jewish Tribune, 9 November, p.7.

Eriksen Erik Olaf (1989) Holy land explorers, Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press.

Finch, Vernon E. W. (1988) The red star line and international mercantile marine company, Uitgeverij de Branding N.V., Antwerpen, pp. 130-132.

Fischel, Henry A. (1961) ‘The philatelic portrait of the modern Jew’, Jewish Social Studies, vol. 23, no. 3, July, pp.187-208.

Fishkoff, Sue (1995) ’Waiting Out the War’, The Jerusalem Post, April 28, pp 8-9.

Flinder, Alexander (1985) Secrets of the bible seas. An underwater archeologist in the holy land, London: Severn House Publishers.

Halperin, Yermiyahu (1982) The Renaissance of Jewish maritime activity (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Hadar.

Hayam, Zeev (1972) Ships relate. The history of Israeli shipping. (in Hebrew) Tel Aviv: Achiassaf Publishers.

Herbert, Gilbert (2008) A View of the Sea – Jews and the Maritime Tradition in Jewish Topographies, pp. 182-199, Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing.

Herbert, Gilbert (2006) Symbols of a new land. Architects and the design of the passenger ships of Zim, A publication of the Architectural Heritage Research Centre, Technion: Israel Institute of Technology.

Kashtan, Nadav (2001) Seafaring and the Jews, Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass.

Kayserling, Meyer (2002) Christopher Columbus and the participation of the Jews in the Spanish and Portuguese discoveries, Albuquerque: Hubert Allen and Associates.

Keeda, Peter (2010) Jewish shipowners in nineteenth century Australia, unpublished manuscript.

Kritzler, Edward (2008) Jewish pirates of the Caribbean, New York: Doubleday.


Laqueur, Walter (2001) Generation Exodus: The Fate of Young Jewish Refugees from Nazi Germany, Hanover: Brandeis University Press.

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Nobbs, Raymond (ed.) (1988) Norfolk Island and its first settlement, Erskinville, NSW, Australia: Star Printery.

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Patai, Raphael (1998) The children of Noah, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Pitot, Genevieve (1998) The Mauritian shekel, Port Louis, Mauritius: Editions VIZAVI.

Pitt, Alan B. (ed) (2008) Stamps of Australia, 11th edition, Sydney: Rennicks Publications.

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Sobel, Samuel (1985) Jewish sea stories, New York: Jonathan David Publishers.

Stanley Gibbons Publications Ltd. (2001) Stanley Gibbons simplified catalogue stamps of the world, (66th) Edition, vols.1,2,3, Ringwood Hampshire: Stanley Gibbons Ltd..

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Straub, Eberhard (2002) Albert Ballin. Der Reeder des Kaisers, Berlin:Berliner Taschenbuchverlag.

Tolkowsky, Samuel (1964) They took to the sea, New York: Thomas Yoseloff Publisher.

Travers, W. (1990) Arrival of HMT Dunera. 1940-1990. 50th Anniversary reunion, Rose Bay, Sydney: Hay-Tatura Association Incorporated.

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Zandberg, Esther (2001) ‘Israel’s Dreamboat Sails into the Sunset’, Ha’aretz October 12, p. 6.

Zim, Department for Press & Public Relations (no date) Models of ships and boats from ancient times (in Hebrew), Haifa: Bing-Lineal.

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