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Choosing an Interfaith Ketubah

Updated April 16, 2012

Historically, the ketubah was a legal document that certified that a Jewish marriage had taken place. The text of ketubot (plural of ketubah) stayed largely the same for centuries. You may be surprised to know that there is no mention of God, love or romance in a traditional ketubah, as it is really more of a contract than anything else. Once two witnesses sign it, the contract verifies that the groom has acquired the bride and agreed to provide for her. It includes the promise of returning the dowry to the bride if they divorce, so it was actually a forward thinking document for its time. It was a small step toward feminism in the first century of the Common Era.

Example of a bilingual ketubah from eytonz on flickr.

In past generations, the ketubah was a simple document supplied by the rabbi, signed before the ceremony and filed away with the secular marriage certificate. Today, the ketubah has become a work of art and a visual testament to the love and commitment of a couple. For this reason, many interfaith couples choose to have a ketubah and even make it a focal point of their wedding, reading it as part of the ceremony and displaying it on an easel for all their guests to view.

You can find many websites devoted to ketubot and to the artists who create them. In order to make the process of choosing an interfaith ketubah easier for you, InterfaithFamily.com has described five different trends of interfaith ketubot. You will find interfaith ketubot that maintain much of the form and language of a traditional ketubah; others that include references to a couple's two religious traditions; a third set that emphasize a couple's common spirituality; and a fourth set with a secular orientation, that focus on declaring your promises to support each other in hard times and share tasks, without mentioning religion. One last option would be for the couple to work with an artist to create a customized ketubah, original to the couple and meeting their unique needs.

Many of these ketubah artists, and others you may find, have created ketubot that honor LGBTQ couples as well as interfaith unions. Many are also open to customizing the text with different language to honor your partnership. Some couples are looking for "husband and wife," while others may want "wife and wife," "partners," or other wording reflective of their relationship. If you've found the interfaith ketubah that interests you, just ask the artist for your preferred wording to better reflect your LGBTQ union.

A ketubah being signed, via santheo on flickr.

Adapting the Tradition

Ketubot were originally written in Aramaic, the local language spoken by ancient Jews (including Jesus). You can choose among many ketubot available on the internet that are already designed and are ready to be filled in with your names. There are ketubot in Aramaic and English, Hebrew and English, and only English. The standard format is to begin with the Hebrew and English date and place of the wedding. They continue with the traditional line, "You are sanctified unto me according to the tradition of Moses and Israel." Interfaith ketubah texts usually avoid using this original formula and substitute more inclusive language, such as "You are sanctified unto me according to tradition" or "I consecrate you to me as my wife/husband/partner."

Micah Parker at KetubahStudio has several versions of inclusive statements. Here's one example:

On the _[ordinal number]_ day of the week, the _[ordinal number]_ day of _[Hebrew month name]_, in the year _[Hebrew year, usually spelled out]_, corresponding to the _[ordinal number]_ day of _[month name]_, in the year _[year, usually spelled out]_, a mutual covenant of marriage was entered in _[City, State] , between the groom, _[Full Name]_, and the bride, _[Full Name]_. The groom, _[Name]_, son of _ [Parent's or Parents' name(s)] _, said to the bride: "I consecrate you to me as my wife according to tradition. I shall treasure you, nourish you, and respect you as those who have devoted themselves to their wives with love and integrity throughout the generations." The bride, _[Name]_, daughter of _[Parent's or Parents' name(s)]_, said to the groom: "I consecrate you to me as my husband according to tradition. I shall treasure you, nourish you, and respect you as those who have devoted themselves to their husbands with love and integrity throughout the generations." And _[Groom's Name]_ and _[Bride's Name]_ pledged together: "We promise to be ever accepting of one another while treasuring each other's individuality; to comfort and support each other through life's disappointments and sorrows; to revel and share in each other's joys and accomplishments; to share our hopes and dreams; to strive for an intimacy that will allow us to accomplish this promise and permit us to become the persons we are yet to be. We vow to establish a home open to all of life's potential; a home filled with respect for all people; a home based on love and understanding. May we live each day as the first, the last, the only day we will have with each other. All of this we take upon ourselves as valid and binding."
Bride ____________ Groom ____________
Witness ____________ Witness ____________
Rabbi ____________

Some interfaith couples choose to have a biblical quote, something found in both the Hebrew and Christian Bible, to decorate their ketubah. A popular choice is one from Hosea 2:21-22 that reads in part, "I betroth you to me forever. I betroth you to me in everlasting faithfulness."

On the ___ day of the week, the ___ day of the month of_______, in the year ___, which corresponds to the ___ day of the month of ______, in the year ___, in _______________, the groom, _______, son of ______________, and the bride, ______________, daughter of _________________, entered into a mutual covenant of marriage before God and these witnesses and said each to the other: "I betroth you to me forever. I betroth you to me in everlasting faithfulness." I will be your loving friend as you are mine. Set me as a seal upon your heart, like the seal upon your hand, for love is stronger than death. And I will cherish you, honor you, uphold and sustain you in all truth and sincerity. I will respect you and the divine image within you. I take you to be mine in love and tenderness. May my love for you last forever. May we be consecrated, one to the other, by these rings. Let our hearts be united in faith and hope. May our hearts beat as one in times of gladness as in times of sadness. Let our home be built on understanding and loving-kindness. May our home be rich with wisdom and reverence." This ketubah has been witnessed and signed according to tradition. It is valid and binding.
Bride ____________ Groom ____________
Witness ____________ Witness ____________
Rabbi ____________
Text © 1996-2011 Micah Parker Artworks, Inc. Used here with permission.
Example of a round ketubah from dlisbona on flickr.

Another alternative is to not reference a particular religion but declare the marriage valid "in the eyes of God". These variations retain the intent of the original to acknowledge the sacredness of the moment and that the couple is making a covenantal commitment to each other.

Referencing Two Traditions

If you want to include words that emphasize the common values of the traditions of your two families, you may choose one like this ketubah found at The Good Company:

This certificate celebrates before God and all those present that on the _____ day of _____, in the year _____ corresponding to _____ at ___________________________, the holy covenant of marriage was entered into between the Groom, _____________, and Bride _____________.

We pledge to each other to be loving friends and partners in marriage, to talk and listen, to trust and appreciate one another, to respect and cherish each other's uniqueness, and to support, comfort and strengthen each other through life's sorrows and joys. We further promise to share hopes, thoughts and dreams as we build our lives together.

May we grow our lives ever entwined, our love bringing us closer together. We shall endeavor to establish a home that is compassionate to all wherein the flow of the seasons and the passages of life, as witnessed by our mutual traditions, are revered and honored. May our home be forever filled with peace, happiness and love.

You may want to link the ceremony and the ketubah to both heritages, as Mickie and Eran Caspi do in this ketubah text found at Ketubah.com:

This ketubah witnesses before God, family and friends that on the ____day of the week, the ___day of the month of _________in the year ___corresponding to the __day of the month of _____in the year____here in ______________, the bride___________, and the groom___________made this mutual covenant as equal partners in marriage.

With theses rings we unite our hearts in tenderness and devotion. We will honor each other's culture as we link customs to form a trusting relationship. We will protect, support, and encourage each other as we create a loving future together. May our lives be intertwined forever and be as one in faith and hope.

As we share life's everyday experiences, we promise to strive for an intimacy that will enable us to share our innermost thoughts and feeling; to be sensitive at all times to each other's needs; to share life's joys and to comfort each other through life's sorrows; to challenge each other to achieve intellectual and physical fulfillment as well as spiritual and emotional tranquility.

We promise to establish a home for ourselves and our children shaped by our respective heritages; a loving environment dedicated to peace, hope, and respect for all people; a family filled with love and learning, goodness and generosity, compassion and integrity.

This marriage has been authorized by the civil authorities of the state of ____________and is in the spirit of the traditions of Moses and Israel.

Alternatively, you may want a ketubah which explicitly says you will join in and celebrate your partner's holidays, such as this one by Nishima Kaplan from Artketubah:

We witness that on the____day of the week, of the month of _____, in the year _____, corresponding to the day of __________, ______, here in_______________, ___________, United States of America, the bride, _______________, daughter of ______________, and the groom, ________________, son of ________________, entered into this sacred marriage covenant.

Standing together hand in hand they said to each other: "As beloveds and friends we choose to walk life's path together. We pledge to be equal partners, loving friends, and supportive companions all throughout our life. We promise to build a harmonious relationship of equality. We shall respect each other's uniqueness and help one another grow to our fullest potential.

As we share life's experiences, we vow to create an intimacy that will enable us to express our innermost thoughts and feelings; to be sensitive to each other's needs; to share life's joys; to comfort each other through life's sorrows; to challenge each other to achieve intellectual and physical fulfillment as well as spiritual and emotional tranquility.

We will build a home together and fill it with laughter, empathy, faith, imagination, trust, friendship, companionship and love; a home in which holidays and heritage are celebrated in accordance with Jewish and _________ cultures and traditions, and respect is fostered for the cultures of both our families. May our love provide us with the freedom to be ourselves and the courage to follow our mutual and individual paths. May we live each day as the first, the last, the only day we will have with each other. We joyfully enter into this covenant and solemnly accept the obligations herein.

Emphasizing Spirituality

Another option for those who see themselves as spiritual, but not religious, can be found in Celebrating Interfaith Marriages by Rabbi Devon Lerner, which includes alternative language choices for those in same-sex relationships. In the last paragraph of this ketubah, it speaks of a pledge instead of a covenant or a vow:

On the ___________day of the week, the ______day of _________ (the bride's/partner's name), daughter/son of______________ and (groom's/partner's name), daughter/son of______________ say: This ring symbolizes our free decision to create this ceremony which joins us and is prompted by the love that we have for each other. This love provides with the determination to be ourselves, the capacity to surrender and the push to live life to its fullest. It gives us the courage to hope and the ability to make our dreams a reality. Our purpose in joining together is to nurture that love in each other and as best we can, give it to others.

We promise to try to be ever open to one another while cherishing each other's uniqueness, to comfort and challenge each other through life's sorrow and joy, to share our intuition and insight with one another, and above all to do everything within our power to permit each other to become the person we are yet to be. We also pledge to establish a home open to the spiritual potential in all life. A home wherein the flow of the seasons and the passages of life are celebrated through the symbols of our heritages. A home filled with reverence for learning, loving and generosity. A home wherein ancient melody, candles and wine sanctify the table. A home joined ever more closely to the communities of the world.

Another variation that may appeal to partners who are spiritual is one by Melissa Dinwiddle which can be found at ketubahworks.com. It also uses the Hosea quote, adds additional quotes from Song of Songs (8:6) and the idea that the divine image is within each partner:

On the ___ day of the week, the ___ day of the month of _______ in the year _____, corresponding to ___ in ______________, ______, ________________ and _________________entered into a mutual covenant as husband and wife, loving and supportive companions in life, and said each to the other: I betroth you to me forever. I betroth you to me in everlasting faithfulness. With trust and devotion, I will be your loving friend as you are mine. Set me as a seal upon your heart, like the seal upon your hand, for love is stronger than death. And I will cherish you, honor you, uphold and sustain you in all truth and sincerity, in times of joy as well as hardship. I will respect you and the divine image within you. May our hearts be united forever in faith and hope. Let our home be built on truth and loving-kindness, rich in wisdom and reverence. May we always keep these words in our hearts as a symbol of our eternal commitment to each other: I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. We joyfully enter into this covenant and solemnly accept its obligations. Our promise to each other, in the presence of loving family and friends, is valid and binding.

Secular

You may also decide to eliminate all reference to God, tradition or heritage and simply focus on the love and promises that you make to each other. This is the approach of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, exemplified in this one from Ketubah Studio:

On the ___ day of the month of ___, in the year ___ of the Jewish calendar, corresponding to the ___ day of the month of ___, in the year ___ of the secular calendar as recorded in ___, ___ and ___ entered into this Covenant of Marriage. We hereby pledge to trust, respect and support each other throughout our married life together. We shall always endeavor to be open and honest, understanding and accepting, loving and forgiving, and loyal to one another. We hereby promise to work together to build a harmonious relationship of equality. We shall respect each other's uniqueness and help one another to grow to our fullest potential. We will comfort and support each other through life's sorrows and joys. Together, we shall create a home filled with learning, laughter and compassion, a home wherein we will honor each other's cherished family traditions and values. Let us join hands to help build a world filled with peace and love.

____________________________, _______________________________
Witness _____________________, Witness_________________
Rabbi/Officiating Clergy _______________________________
Text © Leadership Conference of Secular and Humanistic Jews. Used here with permission.

Creating Your Own Ketubah

Some couples want to create a personal ketubah to detail how they will share responsibilities and resolve conflicts. Others detail the ways they will support and encourage each other throughout life. If you want to create a personal ketubah and stay connected to tradition, you may choose to maintain the original Aramaic text or the translation into Hebrew, but select English text that describes the home you want to build together or the nature of the love you share. Still others may find they want to do away with the Aramaic entirely. These couples may compose their own ketubot in English and Hebrew in accordance with the values they want to govern their marriage. Or you can engage an artist to customize a ketubah for you with any languages that are personally meaningful to you. Beautiful customized ketubot have been created with three languages, adding Chinese, Russian, Spanish or whatever language the couple finds meaningful to a text you have chosen.

There are ketubah artists who will work with you if a customized ketubah is your choice. You will need to commit to this process months before your wedding date to give due time to this process.

Resources

There are many internet sites for ketubot. Here are just a sampling:

Other resources:

 

 

Hebrew for "document," a legal document that is both a prenuptial agreement and a certification that a Jewish marriage has taken place. Plural form of the Hebrew word "ketubah," meaning "document," a legal document that is both a prenuptial agreement and a certification that a Jewish marriage has taken place. A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
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