This is a decorated ketubah template created in New York in 1911. The ketubah is decorated with illustrations of landscape, nature, and wildflowers. The eagle at the top of the ketuabah symbolises the United States and bears a flag with the words, “Health, Wealth and Prosperity” in Hebrew, English, and German. The three languages printed on the flags reflect a connection to the new country, the United States, the original country (Germany), and the Jewish religion. On the left side of the ketubah, written in English, is a text which attests to the fact that the couple was married according to the civil laws of New York State; the text on the right is the traditional ketubah text, written in Aramaic. The two texts together reflect the dual identity of American Jews. The design itself shows the equality between the two traditions and the bride and groom. There is a clear symmetry between the two sides of the ketubah: the illustrations of the lion and lioness represent the bride and groom, and all the items accompanying them – the pillar, the flowers, and even the pigeons – are identical on both sides. From the text at the bottom of the ketubah it seems that the Central Palace Hall in New York provided this ketubah to all who got married in their hall. The hall was located in the “little Germany” area of New York’s Lower East Side.
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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.
The Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York – The Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City has traditionally been home to immigrants. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, most of the new immigrants to New York settled in the Lower East Side. Between 1880 and 1924, more than 2.5 million Jews immigrated to the United States, 60 percent of whom lived for some period of time in the Lower East Side. They lived in overcrowded tenements, which were low cost apartments, housing large extended families in one apartment and often sharing a bathroom with other tenants. Although by 1920 immigrants from Greece, Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine also lived in the Lower East Side, the largest ethnic group was Ashkenazi Jews with a population of 400,000. Yiddish was spoken on the streets and merchants, many using handcarts, lined the streets. Unsafe housing and working conditions led to the rise of political activism and social reform. Many well-known Jews grew up in the Lower East Side such as the labour union leader Samuel Gompers and entertainers like the Marx Brothers, Irving Berlin, and Ira Gershwin. As the Jewish community became more affluent and moved away from the Lower East Side, new immigrant groups moved in. Currently, the Lower East Side has a large number of immigrants from Latin America and China. Although the Jewish population has declined, many of the synagogues, including the Eldridge Street Synagogue, still remain.
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.