Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Though it is merely a piece of paper, this item evokes feelings and emotions that are difficult to describe. Though, in accordance with strict halacha the receipt may not be a davar she-bikdusha (a holy object to which special laws of handling, disposal, and respect apply), I have always viewed it as such and made certain to treat it accordingly.

 

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A Pair of American Kotel Stamps

Did you know the United States issued a 39-cent stamp featuring the Kotel back in 2007?

Well, that’s because it didn’t – although the stamps exhibited here do constitute legitimate United States postage. These stamps are “personalized” U.S. stamps I created from a beautiful photograph I took one night at the Western Wall.

In the U.S., personalized stamps – also known as “customized postage” – are actually not really stamps but rather a form of meter labels that are governed by the U.S. Postal Service. Customized postage is commercially available, but the USPS has authorized different companies to generate, transmit, and print the indicia barcodes, to ensure that images conform to USPS standards, to market and sell customized postage, and to fill customer orders.

Singer-080516-Stamps

Postal regulations specifically exclude “objectionable” pictures on the stamps, and the private firms are held to high standards regarding both the subject and the image of the personalized stamp. These rules prohibit, among other things, content or images that are partisan or political, illegal, deceptive, defamatory, or obscene; that violate any person’s privacy rights; that discriminate based upon race, gender, etc.; or that portray firearms, gambling, graphic violence, drug use, or the consumption of alcoholic beverages or tobacco. But occasionally some prohibited labels do get through. For example, in 2004, the website stamps.com let through labels featuring the Rosenbergs, Jimmy Hoffa, Ted Kaczynski, Monica Lewinsky’s dress, Slobodan Milošević, and Nicolae Ceauşescu. The USPS was not amused.

Another area for exclusion is “content or images actively advocating or disparaging the religious agenda of any person or entity.” Topic for discussion: do you think my Kotel stamps violate that standard?

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Saul Jay Singer serves as senior legal ethics counsel with the District of Columbia Bar and is a collector of extraordinary original Judaica documents and letters. He welcomes comments at at sauljsing@gmail.com.
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