Ketubah, Wedding Contract, USA, 1977
This is a ketubah – a wedding contract from a wedding that took place in the United States in 1977. The traditional text is illustrated with designs and patterns and includes a large drawing of Jerusalem. In the center of the drawing is the Hurva Synagogue that has recently been rebuilt after its destruction during the Jordanian rule of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The drawing of Jerusalem in the ketubah symbolizes the verse from Psalms said by the groom at the end of the wedding ceremony:
"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my highest joy."
According to Jewish tradition, one must remember the city of Jerusalem at all times, including times of great joy such as a wedding. For this reason, ketubahs often include illustrations of the city of Jerusalem, symbolizing the deep connection between the Jewish people and Zion.
A ketubah is a legal document detailing the duties of a husband toward his wife. The ketubah is given to the bride during the wedding ceremony and is often beautifully illustrated. The National Library of Israel has a large collection of more than four thousand ketubahs from around the world, dating from the seventeenth century to the present day.
This ketubah could be used in lessons dealing with Jewish ceremonies, as well as in activities examining the connection of the Jewish people to Israel and Jerusalem throughout history.
What is this document? When is it given?
Ask members of your family – do they have a ketubah? Look at this ketubah and others on the internet.
How is the ketubah designed? Are there illustrations or drawings? Describe it.
Describe the illustrations on this ketubah from the United States.
Which city is depicted at the top of the document? How did you recognize it?
In the center of the drawing is the Hurva Synagogue. Look for information about this synagogue. Did it always look like this? What did it look like in the past?
Why is there a picture of Jerusalem at the top of a wedding contract?
Imagine that you have been asked to design a ketubah – what images and designs would you use to illustrate it?