Making It Official, Creatively

Tying the Knot

By Elisha Sauers

Published September 01, 2006, issue of September 01, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When Abe Newman and his partner, Craig Pollack, discussed the possibility of marriage, they decided that they wanted their ceremony to be infused with Jewish traditions. Last weekend, even though a friend who is not a rabbi officiated their ceremony in Massachusetts, they stood beneath a chupah and smashed not one but two light bulbs.

Along with a Kiddush and a shechechianu blessing, they signed a ketubah created by artist Melissa Dinwiddie, customized with the gender-appropriate pronouns. This text, which has been prepared for other gay and lesbian clients, is called the Equal Partners Commitment text.

Dinwiddie, of ketubahworks.com, started her ketubah-making business in 1997. She had her first gay clients just three years later.

“I have been open to gay ketubot from the beginning, so I was glad someone finally approached me to do one,” Dinwiddie said. “I consider myself an ally for same-sex couples. I think of what I do as a mitzvah.”

A handful of other ketubah artists from around the country are beginning to offer similar texts, and many have been approached not only by Jewish gay and lesbian couples but also same-sex couples of other backgrounds. In an era in which 49 American states will not recognize gay and lesbian marriages, many are finding ketubot to be an alternative way to document their commitment before the national community.

“For me, it’s both a moment to include our historic tie to the religion, and a moment to show that this is a bond with a legal contract,” Newman said.

Gendered pronouns are not the only modifications found in these ketubot. Occasionally, rainbow designs, religious texts about the binding of two souls and quotes from Shakespeare appear on the parchment. A Good Company, a ketubah-maker based in Chicago, has been known to incorporate some of these details.

Stephanie Caplan, a New York ketubah artist for theketubah.com, said when it comes to designing for gay and lesbian clients, the question for her is merely, “Why not?”

“I think the older generation of ketubah artists did not like to do interfaith or gay ketubot, but today it’s easier to come by,” Caplan said.

Caplan sometimes uses a text called “B’rit Ahuvim/Ahavot” (“Lovers’ Covenant”) for her clients, which gleans from the biblical story of David and Jonathan’s bond.

Though some Jews may be uneasy with the thought of David being gay, Rabbi Leila Gal Berner of Washington, D.C., who has written her own ketubah text for lesbian couples, used by customketubah.com artist Miriam Karp, said that whether Jonathan and David’s relationship was sexual or not does not nullify its emotional impact.

Berner feels that gay and lesbian couples have just as much of a need for a ketubah, and she encourages it for all the couples she counsels.

“Gay and lesbian Jews are saying, ‘We are voluntarily wanting to take on the responsibilities of marriage through the writing of such a document in a serious, Jewish way,’” Berner said. “I only hope that many more ketubah artists will let it be known that they are ready and able to make ketubot for gay and lesbian couples.”

Elisha Sauers is a writer living in Bloomington, Ind.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.