What Themes are Appropriate for a Custom Ketubah?

An art Ketubah custom-created just for the couple can be about any of a variety of themes. What theme is best for the Ketubah?

There are a few ways to approach choosing the right subject for your Ketubah or Jewish wedding contract that you should think about before you buy or commission one.

One approach is the traditional approach: to choose art and a theme that reflects traditional Ketubot, such as trees, Jewish stars, and, more broadly, standard Jewish themes.

Another approach is to choose a subject that you are passionate about: your city, books — or whatever it is that you love spending your time obsessing over. Something that you are creative about, and that you understand and do in a very high quality way.

A third approach is to choose an artistic style or design that you really love. Maybe your favorite artist? Or favorite art movement? Contemporary or modern art? Impressionism? Perhaps even Dutch style — not to mention, there are rumors that Rembrandt was Jewish! It’s not hip but we love it!

A fourth approach is to choose as a theme a group you associate yourself with. Perhaps you like the “cool” style, or a lesbian theme, or a New York or Los Angeles of Philadelphia theme. Perhaps an artsy DIY style, or perhaps your favorite board game?

In conclusion — you really can and should choose whatever theme you want for your Ketubah, so long as it is respectful and doesn’t violate any of our sacred Jewish laws. The Ketubah is best as a reflection of both your personality and the modern yet ancient traditions of Judaism herself.


How do you choose if you want a Custom or Standard Ketubah?

If you want to buy a high quality Ketubah, one question you are faced with is: should I buy a custom made one, or a standard off-the-shelf one?

There are a few factors to take into account when choosing whether to commission an artist for a custom Ketubah, or to buy one from a store. Here are a few of them.

The first factor to consider is the Artist himself, or herself. Do you trust the artist? Is his (or her) past work just awesome, in a style you love? Has he, in the past, created designs for Ketubahs that you just love? Is his art an art that you respect and that inspires you? Have you seen an online gallery or store of his/her work?

The second factor to consider before you buy a standard or custom Ketubah is the cost. Is it expensive or cheap? How much does each cost? What is your budget? Note that one reason that it is great to work with Ketubah artists in Latin America is that they are much more affordable than artists who live in Manhattan or Los Angeles.

The third factor to consider is, what do you want on your Ketubah? If you want something standard or typical, then a normal Ketubah might be good for you. But if you want a design that is unique or contemporary; modern, hipster, different or new; or based on a personal interest? The more you want the Ketubah to reflect your individual personality and tastes, the more it makes sense to get a custom Ketubah.


Why a Ketubah that is Creative, Cool, Contemporary — and Custom!

What are traditional Ketubah patterns? They always contain the core text (contract) of the Ketubah; they usually contain some amount of decoration, almost always in the traditional Jewish styles (contain imagery such as Jewish stars and trees); and they are usually of a boilerplate design.

Before we think about buying a Ketubah, first, lets re-imagine the Ketubah for a moment. Particularly the design. Lets re-imagine it in a new, unique, and modern way. To think of it as art, cool modern art.

The first question this makes us as ourselves is, must a Ketubah be designed with the traditional Jewish aesthetic of Stars of David and trees? Although that is the tradition, that is in no way mandatory nor even encouraged; it’s just done that way because, well, we’ve been doing it that way for a long time. It is a mitzvah (hiddur mitzvah) to decorate your Ketubah; but as long as it is respectful and follows the laws of the Jewish decorative tradition, such as without any engravings of God (as Jewish law strongly forbids creating any idols) – then there is no hesitation to use modern, creative, and hipster designs. That’s why we can put in the three “c”-s: creative, cool, and contemporary Ketubot. We would add in a few other adjectives (quality or high-quality, or different or unique,for example) – but we like the repetitive rhythms of the “c”-s.

But there’s a fourth “c”, too, to consider when buying a Ketubah: custom. Why must your Ketubah be identical to everyone else’s? Couples now currently either use a Ketubah given to them by their Rabbi, or they buy one for a few hundred dollars from a generic online store. But why not have a Ketubah created, just about you, your interests, and your passions? What better way is there to memorialize your marriage than to turn the legal contract into art, created just for you, by amazing Jewish artists – that you can hang on your wall with pride? We can’t think of a better way. But then again, we’re pretty biased here.


Folk Ketubah with Local Customs: Argentine Jewish Ketubah Artists

As the world gets smaller — and increasingly modern — the possibilities of getting Ketubot from any corner of the world increasingly abound.

Why not get a Ketubah from a local Jewish artist from another corner of the world — and in doing so support local but talented Jewish designers from all over the world?

A decade ago, this would have been near impossible, for a few reasons, such as: the Internet wasn’t as propagated as it is now, so many Jewish artists in faraway lands, like Argentina, didn’t have reliable Internet access – and even if they did, they didn’t have an easy way to “get the word out” about their services or even get paid internationally. So a decade ago, everyone in New York bought Ketubot from New York artists; in Los Angeles, from Los Angeles artists; in Philadelphia from Philadelphian artists; and so forth.

But perhaps most importantly, until recently, the style of these International Ketubah artists was largely the same: the traditional, Jewish Ketubah style. Whether cheap or expensive; orthodox, conservative or reform; gay, lesbian, interfaith or traditional — the style was always the same: trees and flowers. Sun and desert. Jewish stars and Jewish hands.

But This is not a Ketubah is helping both fronts enter the future. On the one hand, we’re innovating by creating Ketubot that are modern and new, unique and different, cool and (in our opinion) the best around anywhere.

But, on the other hand, we are doing something even more profound: giving access to very talented and up-and-coming Jewish artists, from under-developed countries, access to international markets to promote themselves. Before This is Not a Ketubah, many of these most talented Argentine-Jewish designers had no means or method to show off their work to potential clients or buyers on the other side of the world. This is one reason why This is Not a Ketubah is dedicated to not only supporting Ieladeinu, the Argentine Jewish orphanage, but promoting the works, on the international markets, of the best Argentine and Latino Jewish artists.


What Makes a Modern Ketubah Kosher?

Can a thoroughly modern and contemporary Ketubah (like ours at This is Not a Ketubah) still be Kosher?

Many of the features of the new, modern, cool Ketubot — like the high quality design, the creative look and even the custom creation — don’t effect whether it is Kosher or not. Some even help it: it is, after all, a Mitzvah to decorate your Ketubah to be as beautiful as possible.

The awesome design and special love we give to our Ketubot are what make them thoroughly modern, but that just doesn’t change how kosher it is or isn’t.

Other features of the hipster or unique Ketubah really depend on your Rabbi. For example, some Rabbis might perform a gay Jewish marriage or an intermarriage; many do not, and Orthodox rabbis never do.

Another factor is, whether a woman signs it or not. This, too, depends on your rabbi and shul. Traditionally, it is usually men who sign the Ketubah. But modern congregations these days usually allow woman to sign them as well.

The single most important factor is, of course, the wording of the Ketubah. Although we obsess over creating amazing designs for our Ketubot, the Ketubah is fundamentally a legal contract — and it is the Jewish law that matters above everything else. We use the standard wording — and there are a few traditions for the wording, such as the traditional Ashkenazi wording and the traditional Sephardi wording — and we work closely with your Shul’s rabbi in order to ensure that all the wording is perfect.


Are Ketubot Legally Binding?

So a Ketubah is a contract. Like any contract, it is signed, there are witnesses, and there is a bit of ceremony surrounding it. Okay, in our case, a lot of ceremony!

But is it a real contract? Is it legally binding?

The answer to this depends on, which legal system the contract is in reference to.

If you live in the USA, continental Europe or Latin America — for example — then, by the laws of the physical land (like the State of New York or indeed anywhere in America, for example), then the answer is a resounding, “no!”: it is not a legally binding contract.

But many of us answer to a higher authority, following another legal system (on top of that of the physical jurisdiction in which we live) — such as the Jewish law.

To observant Jews, the Kebutah is indeed a binding contract. Although many of the details might sound outdated (do these currencies even exist anymore?), it is common, say, in the case of a divorce, to translate the given amounts into modern currencies.

The unobservant Jew does not even consider the jurisdiction nor technical details of the Kebutah, for he considers it more a symbolic act above all.


Where in your house should you hang your Ketubah?

One question that every Jewish couple faces is, where in their house should they hang their Ketubah? Which wall, and in which room, is just right, just perfect, to hang your Ketubah on? Where in the house should the Ketubah be displayed?

It can be a challenging question, and must be analyzed based on various criteria:

What rooms in the house are the most prominent? Does everyone hang out in the living room?

Do you, personally, view the Ketubah as a more private document (in which case, the Bedroom is ideal to hang it) or a more public document (in which case, the living room is ideal)? Most modern Jews view the Ketubah as a public document — indeed, it originally began as a public contract. The wedding has witnesses, for example! But some traditions used to keep it more private; most of those traditions have been lost in the USA, for example.

What are the other design elements that are practical considerations? Sometimes, our clients have both a large and a small living room — and although it might be preferable to post the public document in the large living room, the walls are already full, so we put it into the smaller living room, instead.

The country you are living in is also a consideration to keep in mind. In Latin America, Ketubot are often kept in private; in Israel and the USA, they are often publicly displayed, in a prominent part of the house!

Are you wondering what wall to place your Ketubah on? Ask us, we can help you figure it out! Our email address is: team@tinak.org

We’d love to hear from you – let us know!


Klimt: the Modern of the Modern Ketubot!

Of the contemporary Ketubot, there are many art styles — you can do a Ketubah to look like a Warhol, a Malevich, or a Kandinsky.

But if you were to want a custom Ketubah, in a fun (even cool or, God help me, “hipster”) style, you might want to consider the Klimt aesthetic.

We’ve already done a few custom and handmade Ketubahs in the Klimt style like Klimt-ish Ketubah I and Klimt-ish Ketubah II, and these are among our favorites. (They’re online for you to review!).

Klimt captures a lot of the creative and modern style, with many traditional implications as well.

Klimt and his long-gone Vienna might seem like a thing of the long-gone pre-war past — but he is, in an odd way, the modern of the moderns, the contemporary of the contemporaries. He was cool before it was cool. Ahead of his time, with a timeless style that looks as old as it does new. We love our Klimt!


A Ketubah From New York

What is the New York style of Ketubot?

It is similar but different to the Buenos Aires style.

The New York Ketubah tends to be more Jewish; the Buenos Aires Ketubah tends to be more modern, more contemporary.

The New York Ketubah tends to be more ornate; the Buenos Aires Ketubah tends to be more to-the-point.

The New York Ketubah tends to be more classically-designed (in the usual Ketubah styles); the Buenos Aires Ketubah tends to be a bit more cutting-edge and modern.

But what about the Israeli Ketubah?

The Israeli Ketubah tends to have more ancient Judaic themes: the use of desert colors, the Biblical imagery.

What kind of Ketubah do you like? What kind of Ketubah do you want?

Let us know!


The Hipster Ketubah: Cool, Contemporary, Creative, C-Something

The world lacks hipster Ketubot. No longer! We have now brought them to the world.

Of course, we all know that: if you need to say you’re a hipster–then you’re not. So we know that we’re really not hipsters. If we were, after all, then we wouldn’t be sitting here being all nerdy with Ketubot — we’d probably be out at some party in Williamsburg as we speak. The hipster side of Williamsburg, not the Chassidic side (which we actually prefer!), of course.

The Hipster Ketubah is, in our opinion, the style we try to capture: being modern, cool, contemporary, creative and unique — but with enough tradition so that we’re continuing our long history of the Jews.

Above all, the Hipster brings art, modern art, into everything imaginable — and we have brought art to another level within Ketubot. From Klimt to Picasso; whether gay, lesbian, or straight; whether in New York or Los Angeles; whether more fun, or less fun; whether reform, conservative or orthodox — hipster is hipster.

The Hipster, while denying being a hipster, appeals to a particular lifestyle: the modern of the modern. We come from that same tradition. Indeed, I myself used to live in Williamsburg! Ironically enough, I lived on South 3rd street: exactly on the border between the Chassidic and the Hipster sides. Isn’t life funny?


What is a Modern or Contemporary Ketubah?

In what ways is a modern or contemporary Ketubah different than a traditional Ketubah?

We think they should be unique in either one or two ways, depending on how traditional you are.

First, the design: traditional Ketubot are designed beautifully–but not with a modern sensibility in mind. They often have great imagery, but imagery more drawn from the aesthetic tastes of our grandparents, not from us.

Second, the wording. Traditional Ketubot use ancient wording that assumes various roles about currencies, dowries, and other traditions no longer much followed. Do you want to keep the traditional wording, or update it?

We’ve known very happy couples that have done either. Some people like the vestige of the contract our ancestors abode by. Some people want to take the contract very seriously, so they want to update the wording to better reflect our modern currencies and values.

Some couples write their own; some couples use the one their Rabbi gives them; some couples find one that is suited towards their needs, desires, and passions.

In other articles on this site, we’ll address the question of: how seriously should you take the legal contract of the Ketubah? That’s for another day. But for today, our important lesson to remember is, the Ketubah is a powerful tradition and, like all traditions, we must accept it with care and with great responsibility. As Spiderman said: “with great responsibility, comes great power!”. This is one contract that you really don’t want to break!

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