6.17.2013

A Ketubah Story

Our good friend Danny Azoulay, renowned Israeli designer of some of our favorite papercut ketubah designs, sent us a note the other day about discovering his own parents' ketubah. The experience changed the way he feels about his work and how the ketubah document affects future generations. Here is his story...

Family Heritage: Finding My Parents' Ketubah

by Danny Azoulay



Early 20th Century Ketubah | Dany Azoulay
The Ketubah of Danny Azoulay's parents.
They were 19 and 16 at the time of their marriage.
Click the image to view full size.
Photo copyright Danny Azoulay
As we were clearing out my parents' apartment following my mother’s first Yahrtzeit, my parents' ketubah was discovered amongst some old documents. None of my seven brothers and sisters had ever seen it before. In fact, it was not immediately apparent to us that this was indeed their ketubah. The folded yellowed document, almost 90 years old, was written in half culmus, bearing a similarity to Hebrew and "Rashi" (the typeface used in the Rashi commentary). The half culmus font had been used by the Sephardic Jews particularly in Spain during the Tor Hazahav (the Golden Era of Spanish Jewry). Later, after fleeing to North Africa, the Jews living in Morocco continued to write various religious documents in this font. The wedding contract -- handwritten -- elaborated on the families of both my mother and father, with special attention to my mother’s father ("a man of great knowledge of the Torah and acts of chesed -- good deeds") as he had been a highly respected member of the local Jewish community.

The rabbi's signature on the ketubah,
representing himself as well as
 his predecessors.
Click the image to view full size.
Photo copyright Danny Azoulay
Although the ketubah is unadorned, two passport-sized pictures of my parents were attached according to official requirements. This was very surprising for us, and at the same time also delightful. My parents were 19 and 16 at the time of their marriage. I had never seen photos of them looking so young.

Another unusual detail on the wedding contract caught my eye. There was a kind of abstract line drawing on the ketubah that we could not figure out the rhyme or reason for it being there. Only later were we able to get the answer to this curious squiggle.
Harmony Ketubah
An intricate, four-layer
papercut ketubah.

Click to view our
collection of Danny
Azoulay's ketubot


When we brought the ketubah to the local rabbi, we were told that this was the signature of the rabbi who officiated at the ceremony and that his signature, itself, was a chain of signatures incorporating all signatures of his predecessors -- including the current rabbi's own addition. Today a fine-print made of the original ketubah is framed and hanging in each of our family’s homes.

Added to the joy of being an artist and having my work be part of the wedding ceremony for many young Jewish couples around the world, my own experience of finding my parents' ketubah gave me a new perspective on the ketubah's significance -- for not only the couple on the wedding day, but for their offspring and the generation to follow.