By popular demand, Ketuv artist Giliah Litwack has expanded her “Chairs” series for two brides! Check it out! Chairs #3 is now available in our shop for all you lovebirds! And don’t miss Giliah’s Chairs #2 ketubah, featured prominently in last week’s Washington Jewish Week, pages 55-56!
Big news! Two of our artists have been selected to exhibit (alongside the likes of Judy Chicago and Joan Snyder!) in the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion Exhibition, Sexuality Spectrum, exploring LGBTQI themes in the Jewish world. The three works selected were Love Nest, It’s a Tight and Mighty Embrace and Chair #2, the first two by Paola Andrea Ochoa and the last one by Giliah Litwack. We’re also proud to announce that all three ketubot have been outfitted with our new text, the Rabbinical Assembly’s Brit Ahuvim text for same-sex couples.
We’re including the official press release below, but you can also access this information on the HUC-JIR pressroom. We hope you can make it to the opening.
THE SEXUALITY SPECTRUM
October 10, 2012 – June 28, 2013
Opening Reception: Wednesday, October 10 at 5:30 – 7:30 pm, Program at 6:30 pm
The Sexuality Spectrum offers a groundbreaking exploration of sexual orientation through the creativity of over fifty international contemporary artists. Artists including Judy Chicago, Joan Snyder, Arthur Tress, Archie Rand, Albert Winn, Trix Rosen, Joan Roth, and Mark Podwal explore a broad range of subjects:the evolving social and religious attitudes toward sexuality; issues of alienation, marginalization, and inclusion; the impact on the family, child-rearing, and life stages; violence and persecution; AIDS/HIV; and the influence of the LGBTQI community on the Jewish and larger world.
Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, states, “The common thread that unites these works is a principled intent on the part of these artists to employ art as a tool to create a messianic world of justice for all regardless of sexual orientation, family status, gender, or age. It is the self-evident ethical aspiration that marks this exhibition as so powerful, inspirational, and unique.”
Judy Chicago and Estelle Yarinsky reference Nazi persecution of gay victims during the Holocaust, as documented in Richard Grune’s rare wartime lithograph. Josh Lehrer captures haunting portraits of transgender youths in New York City. Helene Aylon, Susan Kaplow and Trix Rosen expose and refute the biblical quotes in Leviticus that have engendered discrimination and intolerance, while Archie Rand looks to the biblical David and Jonathan and prophet and warrior Deborah for other perspectives, as does Benton Spruance’s evocation of Jacob wrestling with the angel and David Wander’s “Song of Songs.” Heddy Abramowitz and Dorit Jordan Dotan capture public conflict over gay rights in Israel, while Kobi Israel offers poignant images of military personnel as commentary. Photographer Joan Roth’s archive of “pride parade” images reflects two decades of activism, also depicted in John Dugdale’s and Joyce Ellen Weinstein’s works. Andi Arnovitz expresses the anguished consequence of unborn children and stunted families. Carol Hamoy tackles issues of anonymity and invisibility, while Leonard Meiselman expresses masked identity. Female sexuality is expressed in depictions of Lilith by Siona Benjamin, Mark Podwal, and Iris Levinson. The impact of AIDS/HIV is found in Linda Soberman’s sober installation of empty chairs, Albert Winn’s powerful “Akedah,” and in two panels of the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt, created by John Hirsch, which demonstrate the Reform Movement’s longstanding concern and commitment. Physical and emotional longing are found in works by Joan Snyder, Martin Wong, Penny Wolin, and Arthur Tress. Cartoonist William Haefeli and graphic novelist Alison Bechdalecapture the pivots of change.
Laura Kruger, Curator, explained, “The HUC-JIR Museum staff held numerous focus groups ofartists, asking them to share their intimate feelings concerningtheir lives as LGBTQI in the community, includingtheir faith-based experiences. We frequently heard incidentsof marginalization, isolation, and exclusion. They sharedtheir long years of concealment as well as the wrenching experienceof ‘coming out;’ their relationships with familymembers, employers, and friendships that disintegrated; andthe search for life-long partners.”
Jean Bloch Rosensaft, Director, noted, “This exhibition exemplifies the spirit of the College-Institute’s and the Reform Movement’s commitment to free and open inquiry, inclusivity and outreach, and advocacy on behalf of human rights and the eradication of sexual discrimination.Our museum has a longstanding commitment to explore challenging issues through the visual arts; past exhibitions have included artistic responses to family violence, aging and ageism, and rebirth after the Holocaust.”
HUC-JIR’s Institute for Judaism, Sexual Orientation & Gender Equality and Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling have guided the development of this collaborative project. Faculty and students have contributed essays reflective of their academic disciplines for the catalog.
Artists in The Sexuality Spectrum:
Dorit Jordan Dotan
Robbin Ami Silverberg
Benton Murdoch Spruance
Joyce Ellen Weinstein
Albert J. Winn
Above, clockwise from top left:
Alfred J. Winn, Akedah, black-and-white silver gelatin print, 1995
Archie Rand, David’s Sorrow, Acrylic on canvas, 2002
Dorit Jordan Dotan, Ruth & Naomi, photograph, 2012
Linda Soberman, Empty Chairs, mixed media installation, 2012
David Wander, Come My Beloved, acrylic and ink on paper, 2010
Presented by the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture, with the support of George, z’’l, and Mildred Weissman.
Location: One West Fourth Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street), New York City
Subway: N/R/W to 8th Street (NYU); 6 to Astor Place; A/C/E/B/D/F/M to West 4th Street
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 am – 5 pm; Friday, 9 am – 3 pm
Admission: FREE. Government-issued photo ID required.
Group Tours and Information: 212-824-2298 or email@example.com
Today, Ketuv is proud to announce the inclusion of two progressive texts within our text offerings. One is Rabbi Gordon Tucker’s Egalitarian Text, which we’ll detail in another post. The other, which we’ll go over in this post, is the Rabbinical Assembly‘s new ketubah text for same-sex marriages. That’s right: the Conservative movement has officially sanctioned its rabbis to perform same-sex marriages, and has developed new “rituals and documents” for this purpose. They’ve outlined these “Rituals and Documents of Marriage and Divorce for Same-Sex Couples” in their Spring 2012 paper (click for full download). This document not only includes a ketubah text for gay and lesbian couples, but also includes outlines for two marriage ceremonies for observant same-sex couples. For many in the faith community, the idea of reconciling homosexuality has been difficult. The rabbis who have written this article defend their position brilliantly and eloquently:
“We acknowledged in our responsum that same-sex intimate relationships are comprehensively banned by classical rabbinic law, yet our teshuvah [response] cited the often repeated halachic principle, gadol k’vod habriot shedoheh lo ta’aseh sheba Torah, ‘Great is the demand of human dignity in that it supersedes a negative principle of Torah.’ [Bold is an editor’s choice]. On this basis, and on the strong scientific evidence we cited that current discriminatory attitudes toward gay men and lesbians do indeed undermine their dignity, evidenced by their much higher rates of suicide, we concluded that for observant gay and lesbian Jews who would otherwise be condemned to a life of celibacy or secrecy, their human dignity requires suspension of the rabbinic level prohibitions so that they may experience intimacy and create families recognized by the Jewish community. For this reason we wrote in favor of the creation of ceremonies of recognition of loving, exclusive, and committed same-sex partnerships. We acknowledge that these partnerships are distinct from those discussed in the Talmud as ‘according to the law of Moses and Israel,’ but we celebrate them with the same sense of holiness and joy as that expressed in heterosexual marriages.”
For those who don’t want to read the entire article, I’ll try to briefly explain the difference between the Brit Ahuvim, or Lover’s Covenant, text and the traditional ketubah text in layman’s terms. When we examine what makes this text different from the traditional ketubah text, we come up against the gender-specificity of the traditional ketubah text, created for heterosexual unions. There are specific responsibilities as regards husband and wife. Allow me to give a brief explanation of two of the main terms of traditional Jewish heterosexual marriage: the kiddushin and agunah. Kiddushin/Kinyan: The traditional ketubah text and the traditional kiddushin ceremony, undertaken by most observant Jewish couples, is a one-way agreement which involves a kinyan, an acquisition of the bride by the husband.* Agunah: According to Jewish law, the husband must grant his wife a divorce. If the husband does not authorize the divorce, a wife can become agunah, which means “chained”. Obviously, without the presence of two genders, neither of these ideas have clear applications. But wait! They don’t have clear applications for many heterosexual couples either! The rabbis who have written this article acknowledge that the kiddushin— where the bride belongs exclusively to her husband, but the husband does not belong exclusively to the bride– as well as the issue of iggun or agunah, are deeply problematic from an egalitarian perspective (and a whole host of other perspectives, but that’s for future blog posts). Their article details what the Conservative movement has done to minimize these dilemmas while still remaining true to the tradition. The Brit Ahuvim ketubah text (which owes a debt to the work of Rabbi Gordon Tucker, and to the work of Dr. Rachel Adler in Engendering Judaism), effectively removes the kiddushin/kinyan and the conditions that create agunah, by instead working from the traditional Jewish model of brit or covenant. This decision helps to preserve a distinctly “Jewish” ceremony and marriage. This text, though created for same-sex couples, in fact, addresses the concerns of many heterosexual couples who strive for more egalitarian partnerships. (For those couples, we recommend Rabbi Gordon Tucker’s Egalitarian text.) They represent important steps forward in the Jewish community, and Ketuv commends the Rabbinical Assembly for this important contribution. Below are the texts. Brit Ahuvim Ketubah Text for Two Brides: Brit Ahuvim Ketubah Text for Two Grooms:
Chairs by Giliah Litwack, Ketuv’s premiere same-sex ketubah
Have you seen our blog post on Mazel Moments? If not, we just wanted to let you know: Ketuv is serious about marriage equality. From our post: “From now on, every time another state passes marriage equality, Ketuv will offer 5% off on all of our ketubot for a whole week. All you have to do is type in Equality and the two-letter state abbreviation of the state that just passed the bill. For example, in the week after our home state of New York passed marriage equality, you would have entered EqualityNY, and we would have given you 5% off of your fabulous new ketubah. Can’t wait to celebrate with you!” Take a look at our post on Mazel Moments (and check out the rest of the site, too– totally awesome and comprehensive for Jewish lifecycle events!) for more of how Ketuv can help same-sex couples find the ketubah that is right for them. Remember that Ketuv fills in your ketubah text for free, which means we will work with you directly to make sure your text represents you the way you want to be represented.
Your ketubah signing, not the ceremony, is what precedes your first married moments.
I was in a Judaica store the other day, visiting my ex Jewish studies teacher who works at the counter. A couple came in looking for a ketubah. After a cursory glance through the pile of ketubot in a corner of the store, they brought one up to the register. My teacher tried to explain to them what they were buying– the text, who the artist was. The couple listened impatiently, until the groom-to-be finally said, “Listen, our rabbi said we needed either an Orthodox or a Conservative text. We’re just trying to cross this off the list.” I happened to be nearby, so I asked them if they planned to hang up the ketubah. “Well, yeah,” said the groom. Then he turned to his bride and said, “So is this the one you want?” She shrugged. “Yeah, sure.” The challenge for those of us in the ketubah business can be summed up in the above interaction. We want to help you, the couples, to recognize the importance of your ketubah at the time that you’re buying it– that is, before your wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, no explanation will be necessary. You will have witnessed the significant role it played in your wedding–the signing of the witnesses, your dearest friends, in the intimate moments before your marriage. You will have felt this electrifying truth– that with or without the ceremony that follows, as soon as you sign the ketubah, YOU. ARE. MARRIED. Suddenly, this piece of paper will take on paramount importance– it will symbolize the newest moments of your married life, the small room where those closest to you joined in the joy of your union. (And this is just the emotional significance, to say nothing con the actual words in the contract– the husband’s promises to his wife, or the husband and wife’s promises to one another, as a married couple.) This document, with significance on a symbolic, sentimental, spiritual and legal level will also serve an aesthetic function– it will likely hang in your bedroom or living room for a long, long time. I’ll present you with two examples from my own inner circle. My father, who remarried before I got into this business, often comments how he loves his ketubah for what it represents, but not so much for how it looks. It was, for him and his wife before their marriage, “just another thing to cross off the list.” They have hung their ketubah in the hallway leading to their bedroom. They want to remember and feel that connection to their wedding day, and to their commitment to one another– they just don’t want to look at the thing all the time. Contrast that with my dearest friends Jordan and Lindsey. You’ve seen this bride before. She’s become our poster bride, because of the way that this couple really connected to their ketubah. Let me take you through the moments after their ketubah signing, pictorially. There was not a dry eye in the house. Even the groom was struggling not to lose it (sorry, dude).
(photos by Robby Campbell)
Lindsey told me just what she wanted in her ketubah and I executed it, with a few surprises. They have hung the ketubah opposite their bed, where it is the first thing they see in the morning, and the last thing they see before they go to sleep (aside from one another, of course). Jordan said, “Bride and groom become husband and wife once the ketubah is signed, and on our wedding day, the significance of the signing was palpable due in large part to the beauty of our ketubah. It is a moment we will never forget, one of the happiest of our lives. We look at our ketubah, and it reminds us of our perfect day.” After the flowers wilt, the delicacies are eaten, the white dress is in plastic, the ketubah will be there: it will hang in your bedroom as long as you’re married. Your photos and your wedding video may grace your shelf until someone– probably your children, and probably only a few times, max– will want to look at them but, again, your ketubah will be there, on your wall, out in the open, a constant reminder. Still think the ketubah is just another thing to cross off the list?
We’re Ketuv, a new business offering a fine art option in ketubahs.
For the uninitiated, a ketubah is a decorative Jewish marriage contract, signed at the wedding to unite the couple. But it’s not just for Jews anymore. In recent years, the ketubah has become a powerful statement of partnership for all couples.
We got to thinking: why do most ketubahs look just the same when there are so many unique couples, and so many talented artists?
Ketuv’s stand-out launching line features ketubahs by a diverse and innovative group of artists, with dynamic careers outside the Judaica and commercial sphere. We guide each artist in applying their studio practice to the ketubah tradition, without compromising their aesthetic. The result is a stand-alone piece of art, whether it be a limited edition print or one-of-a-kind work on paper.
We invite you to check out our website to learn more about us, our artists, and our mission. Visit our shop to browse close to 30 limited edition prints by over 25 emerging and mid-career artists. Most of them are available on the site for custom commissions. Among the options, you’ll find wedding and anniversary artwork for same-sex, interfaith, non-denominational and non-Jewish couples, in addition to ketubahs for Jewish couples of all denominations.
As a business, we’re relying on our community to help us spread the word. We hope you’ll forward this post widely:
Engaged, or know someone who is? Check out our shop! Forward to your friends!
Artists: Interested in making a ketubah? Send a link to your website to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbis and Wedding Planners: Help us get the word out! Contact us at email@example.com and we’ll send you a stack of Ketuv postcards. We’d also love to meet with you (in person or digitally) to tell you about our product.
Press: Want to write a feature on Ketuv? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you our press kit.
By taking an inclusive approach to the ketubah text, and nestling it within a fresh piece of contemporary artwork, Ketuv is renovating the ancient tradition for the next generation.
Arielle and Maya