The ketubbot digitization project aims to create a worldwide registry of ketubbot in public and private collections throughout the world. Based on the collection of the Jewish National and University Library with over 1200 items, the project contains ketubbot originating from dozens of different countries, and covering a time period of over 900 years. It is a major resource for research in Jewish history, law and art.
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The ketubah is known at least for 2500 years, the oldest ones were found on Egyptian Elephantine Island and it used to be a property of the Jewish soldiers. There were marriage contracts in writing lacking any decorations. Ketubah with ornaments, as they are known today, are product of modern times. First ketubah with ornaments were created Middle Ages. These days it was a habit in the Jewish communes in Islamic countries to read aloud the marriage contract at the wedding ceremony and in the same time to display it in front of all wedding guests to admire it. In this period it became a necessity for rich Jewish families to prepare fancier contracts with more ornaments and decorations to show up. This habit has developed and was held only in Sephardim communes. On the opposite there are hardly any ornamented ketubot coming from Ashkenazi families, with only a few exceptions. Throughout ages Sephardim and Ashkenazi communes influenced each other and their habits penetrated the other commune.
In Middle Ages a more stable text was codified. Nevertheless more changes in ketubah text were introduced namely because of the influence of the Jewish diasporas. Around the world the Jewish communes lived in different countries and they were influenced by different habits and environment. The marriage contract text was adapted in each region and it differs, sometimes in details only, sometimes in a single word. Only after the state of Israel was created, the highest country rabbi established the stable text written in Aramaic language.
Artists who created ketubah wrote and illuminated different ornaments upon the influence of their period art and the countries where they lived. Therefore time and country of origin of each ketubah can be recognized easily. Afghanistan contracts exhibit characteristic colours (blue, red, green) and shapes reminding ornaments and colour of Persian carpets. Ketubah from Iran are recognizable for their colour combination of yellow, blue and green. Typical ornamental décor are flowers, leaves, wine plant and other lovely decorative and geometrical ornaments. Ketubah can be decorated with symbolic drawings such as Jerusalem or engaged pair depiction, Zodiac signs, David star and more symbols.