The image of a tree within a Ketubah designs (over 200 on our site!) has become so common and popular we wanted to look into why? It’s no coincidence that growing up we all get the assignment to make a Family Tree – the generations before us, the grandparents, are the roots that grow into the branches, your parents, that branch out into your siblings and it only continues to grow and grow.
Looking at the ketubahs found in Museums, and within our own Museum Collection trees are not that common so when did this trend start? We wanted to ask Ketubah artists why they think trees are so popular for ketubah designs.
Michelle Rummel uses a variety of methods for her ketubah designs and draws inspiration from all over. Amongst some of her most popular are her tree ketubahs. “I was inspired to depict, symbolically, the qualities I felt were important for a lasting love and that’s what led me to hand paint one of my all time most popular Ketubah designs, Life Dance, which featured two entwined trees with hearts where the branches met. I loved the idea of representing the couple as two separate, yet entwined trees.”
Same Sex couples have shared with us how much they appreciate designs that are not gender specific and Michelle knows why: “I was able to make that symbolic connection for wedding couples, giving them a modern interpretation of love and partnership which truly resonated beyond the traditional.”
The roots represent more than just generations that came before the couple, “when deeply rooted side by side, together, a new vision of strength, grace, commitment and passion emerged, like a (Life) dance.”
For Judith Joseph the tree has both a Judaic connection, as well as a personal one. For some reason she tends to replicate the apple tree and wondered why?
“I remembered that, just outside the window of my childhood home, was a crab apple tree that flowered pink in the spring, and I loved it. So, this is my tree.” Everyone sees what they want to see in art and ketubahs. Joseph spoke about her artwork at an environmental symposium at the University of Illinois-Chicago, “Wild Things,” when a woman raised her hand and said she thought the tree was an oak tree. But Joseph understood exactly, “that’s because that’s your tree, and she smiled in recognition, and said she did have a favorite oak tree.”
But tree also represents the tree of life as her sort of default image in her art, “it has the dual symbolism of the Torah as the tree of life, source of wisdom, the root of human morality and justice; and also a link with nature, which is central to my art.”
Why is it so popular? Joseph thinks it is a personal connection a couple has; their love of nature. “Seeing a tree brings to mind happy times spent in wild places or beautiful gardens. At the same time, it links them with their Jewish heritage as a symbol of the Torah as the Tree of Life.”
Judith Joseph has an exhibit open now at the Hillel in Milwaukee which has 31 of her ketubahs on display. Check it out if you’re in the area! To see all of her ketubahs click here.