The History and Traditions Behind Ketubot

Silhouette ketubah

Traditionally, a ketubah, (literally meaning “the written one”) is a Jewish marriage contract which specifies the groom’s obligations to provide his wife with food, clothing, shelter and physical needs. Although originally there were no standard texts, Aramaic (dating from the Talmudic era) was the standard language in which they were written.

Prior to the wedding ceremony, the ketubah is signed by the groom in the presence of two witnesses, read aloud under the chuppah, before all of the celebrants, and then given into the custody of the bride.

The art of ketubah illumination came as a later development in the history of ketubah making. It was a more prevalent practice among the Sephardic Jewish communities than the Ashkenaz. Beautifully decorated ketubot from diverse eras and regions are found in major museums and private collections worldwide.

A revival of ketubah art has occurred of late.  In addition to the traditional rich variety of styles and techniques, a newcomer, paper cutting has now entered the scene.  Although paper cut ketubot are richly grounded in Jewish art, it was not a technique generally used to embellish ketubahs.

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