Meet Betsy Teutsch, ketubah artist and calligrapher extraordinaire!
Here at Ritualwell, we're looking for ways to beat the winter blues (and a barrage of bad news), so we thought it was time to focus on things that brings us joy. Enter ketubah artist Betsy Teutsch, whose stunning ketubot have been used by thousands of couples over the years to both beautify and sanctify their weddings. January may not seem like the month to be thinking about weddings, but as we learned from Betsy, more often weddings are occurring during less conventional times of year.
Ritualwell: What are the most surprising times for a wedding that you've encountered?
Betsy Teutsch: I am surprised that it is becoming quite normal to marry on Shabbat. This is traditionally not allowed, but has become so common, particularily for summer weddings when Shabbat isn't over until 9:00 PM or so, that I no longer try to get the couple to change the Hebrew date till after sundown, like I used to do in the past. Likewise, the prohibition on weddings during the Omer (from Passover to Shavuot) has really dissipated in the non-Orthodox world.
The weirdest time for a Jewish wedding? Yom Kippur! I did a ketubah for a couple who was getting married in a winery on Saturday afternoon, the 10th of Tishri. I couldn't believe my eyes. Who gets married on Yom Kippur afternoon and wants a ketubah?
RW: What is the most unique ketubah you have created (in terms of language or design)?
RW: Do your couples tend to seek customized language for their ketubot or more standard, traditional texts?
BT: Most people go with standard language, since there are many choices. Occasionally a couple wants something very specific. I work with a graphic designer who can computer-generate texts and print them on my artwork.
RW: What is the most popular ketubah text you use?
BT: The egalitarian Hebrew and English text is the most popular. I have two versions. One has spiritual God-language and talks about Jewish values and rituals. The other is what I call "Interfaith Friendly"—the language is very secular, but in Hebrew and English. A big surprise was how many Jewish couples opt for the secular text. They are Jewishly-identified but not comfortable with religious language.
RW: What is the most interesting change you have seen in Jewish weddings over the years?
BT: Destination weddings! People get married in a lot of very exotic locations now. It is hard to figure out how to spell them in Hebrew! I often need to look at a map to even figure out where it is! Same-sex marriages, of course, are another change. I have a text for two women with female Hebrew plurals. I created it in the 1990s when no one imagined legal same-sex marriage, so I didn't use the word "Covenant of marriage" on it. Now it's a little dated!
Renowned for her captivating ketubot, ceremonial objects, and book illustrations, Betsy Teutsch is a prominent figure in the contemporary Jewish renaissance. Her outstanding lettering and design sense, combined with a wide-ranging Judaic knowledge, result in beautiful ketubot. Teutsch, born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota, has specialized in illuminated Judaica and Hebrew calligraphy for over 40 years. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA. Her ketubot are available for sale in the Ritualwell store.