This is a ketubah from a wedding that took place in Washington, DC on January 21, 1880, 8 Shevat 5640. The text of the ketubah is handwritten and follows the traditional Aramaic text. Beneath the Aramaic text is an abridged English translation, consisting of the basic information about the bride, groom and witnesses and the date of the wedding. The English text concludes that the wedding is “according to the laws of the District and the customs of Israel.” The Aramaic text is signed in English by the groom and witnesses. The English translation is signed in English by the bride, groom, witnesses, and officiating rabbi. Both the Jewish date and secular date of the wedding appear in the Aramaic and English texts.
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Ketubah – The ketubah is the Jewish wedding contract that is signed as a central part of the wedding ceremony. Written in Aramaic, the text of the ketubah was codified in the first century CE. An entire tractate of the Talmud called Ketubot is devoted to discussing the purpose and requirements of wedding contracts. The ketubah outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom toward his bride: the amount of money he must pay, the contents of her dowry, and the settlement in case of divorce. While the text has been very consistent throughout history, ketubah designs are very varied and many have calligraphic text and are illuminated. The National Library of Israel features over 4,200 ketubot on its collections, spanning the entire Jewish world over hundreds of years.
Jewish Community of Washington, DC – Washington, DC (District of Columbia) was named the capital of the United States in 1790, and the government officially moved in 1800. Soon after, Jews started moving to Washington to work in government or in the city’s growing businesses. In the first decades, the Jewish community was extremely small, with only 25 Jews living in Washington in 1847. The population grew in the 1840s and 1850s due to an influx of German Jews and grew even more during the American Civil War (1861–1865). By 1865 the Jewish population had reached almost 2,000 people. As the community grew, Jewish institutions such as synagogues and schools were established. In the 1880s, Washington received an influx of Eastern European, Orthodox Jewish immigrants who were fleeing religious persecution. At this time many welfare institutions were founded to assist the new immigrants. With the start of World War I, additional Jewish soldiers and government workers came to Washington. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Israeli embassy opened in Washington which strengthened the Jewish community’s ties with Israel. In the 1950s the Jewish community became more established and affluent, living mostly in the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Although many synagogues moved with their congregants, several remained in the city, along with a smaller, yet still significant, community. Currently, the Jewish community of Greater Washington is the third largest Jewish metropolitan area with 300,000 Jews. Due to its proximity to the federal government and the large number of Jews working in the government, the Washington Jewish community is very involved in civic and political life.
Jewish Community of the United States – At the time of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, between 1,500 and 2,500 Jews were living in the United States, most of them Sephardi. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a wave of German Jews, largely secular and educated, arrived in the United States. Another wave of immigration arrived from Eastern Europe, a result of pogroms and the difficult economic situation in these countries . Most of these new immigrants were Ashkenazi and spoke mainly Yiddish. They arrived, believing that the United States was a “goldene medina,” a country of gold, but the reality was hard. Many of the newcomers worked as manual labourers in difficult conditions, such as in the sweatshops in New York’s Lower East Side. By the beginning of the twentieth century, more than a million Jews lived in the United States, most of them in New York City. Despite immigration quotas, by 1940 the American Jewish population numbered more the 4.5 million. While the first generation of immigrants lived in close-knit Yiddish-speaking communities, the next generation integrated quickly and, in many cases, assimilated into American society and became prominent in many areas of American life. Today American Jews are extremely influential in American politics, business, academia, and culture. Over the last few decades Jews from many countries, such as Russia, Iran, and Israel, have arrived in the United States. The American Jewish community is the second largest Jewish community in the world, numbering between 5.5 and 7 million people. More than 2 million Jews live in New York, making it the city with the largest Jewish population in the world. Half of American Jews consider themselves religious, and there are many Jewish organisations and institutions in the country.