My grandparents are the perfect couple --- and not in a cliché “still in love after all these years” Hallmark card sort of way, but in a really solid, loving and tender sort of way. Anyone who spends a little bit of time with them can see how much they admire each other. It’s in the way they look at each other and even more in the way they speak to and about each other. Together they have survived war, hunger, anti-Semitism, a Communist regime, persecution, immigration and illnesses, and still through it all there is no bickering. If they harbor any irritations towards each other, they are overshadowed by their deep love and mutual respect. I once asked my grandmother what their secret is. She told me that when they got married, they made a decision that there would be peace in their home and they have kept that promise to each other.
My grandparents grew up in what was then the Soviet Union, where religion was prohibited and Jews were persecuted. Little did they know that making promises to each other before marriage is actually a very Jewish thing to do. In fact, the Jewish premarital contract, known as a “ketubah” is an integral part of the Jewish wedding ceremony. When my husband, Patricio, and I were getting married, we worked hard to consciously decide and put on paper what our values as a family would be. This document became the text for our ketubah. At the time we were living in Israel --- what could be more inspiring for me, a painter, than meeting my soulmate and falling in love in magical Jerusalem? So I painted a visual interpretation of the promises we were making to each other. This was the first ketubah I ever painted --- little did I know what lay ahead.
If you have been to the lobby of the J in the last few weeks, you have probably seen my ketubahs hanging in the Duetser Gallery. I have been a ketubah artist for nearly eight years now. I have worked with hundreds of couples and have sent my ketubahs to brides and grooms on six continents! A ketubah is the foundation of a Jewish home --- I like to think of it as a strategic plan for the future of the family. How appropriate then, that ketubahs should be on display at the J --- the place where families come to spend time together and where the seeds of Jewish values are planted.
What does it say about Jewish beliefs that we hang our premarital contract up on our walls for all to see? It’s a way of sharing the joy of starting our life together with others, but it’s also a way to hold ourselves accountable in front of the whole community. It’s like we are saying: this is what we promised to each other and we don’t take it lightly. Patricio likes to say that our ketubah continues to inspire our marriage --- that our vows are something we renew every morning when we wake up and see them hanging in front of us. It’s a contract that we love admiring in happy times, but even more importantly it keeps us focused through hard times. What an honor and a privilege it has been for me to work with so many couples at this pivotal point in their lives. I love getting to know my clients and hearing their stories. It is both exciting and humbling to me to know that my art will hang in their homes, adding a touch of inspiration to their relationship.
A couple of years ago my grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary --- and, you guessed it, I made them a ketubah! Now it hangs proudly in their home, celebrating their life together and all that is still to come. I hope that after 60 years of marriage Patricio and I will still be as supportive, loving, attentive and caring as my grandparents are towards each other --- and I wish the same for all couples starting out on their journey together. L’chaim!
“Modern Ketubah Art: A Contemporary Twist on a Timeless Tradition” will be up in the Deutser Gallery through January 19. There will be an exhibit opening Sunday, January 4 from 4:00-6:00 PM. You can learn more about my ketubah art on my website: www.AAketubah.com and my other art at www.AnnaAbramzon.com.