A document of love

Nishima Kaplan‘s business began with a wedding gift she made for friends in 1998. Today, ArtKetubah enables Kaplan to support her family while making couples happy worldwide.

Ancient tradition meets modern art: A design for a “ketubah” (Jewish marriage certificate) by Nishima Kaplan, who creates them in her West Asheville home for clients far and wide. Photo courtesy Nishima Kaplan

Trained as an artist, Kaplan designs and creates “ketubahs” (beautifully illustrated Jewish marriage contracts) from her West Asheville home. Signed before the wedding as a kind of prenuptial agreement, ketubahs are read and displayed as part of the ceremony. After the wedding, they are typically displayed in the couple’s home.

“People are excited about getting something different,” notes Kaplan. “They want something that’s a personal and intimate document of their love for each other.”

Kaplan’s ketubahs, printed versions of her original paintings, are personalized for each couple. Customers can choose from more than 60 different designs in nine categories—everything from landscapes to Judaic designs to those based on the work of noted artists such as Gustav Klimt and Paul Klee. Prices range from $285 to $345, depending on the size.

A few years ago, the Jewish Museum Vienna chose Kaplan’s Klimt-inspired ketubah “Kiss” for inclusion in its Jewish wedding exhibit. “Unfortunately, we were too busy making ketubahs to visit Vienna for the show,” Nishima’s husband, Alon Kaplan, wrote on the company’s Web site, adding, “Our ketubahs do a lot more traveling than we do!”

The Kaplans were living near Hollywood, Calif., (where Alon was a screenwriter) when Nishima created her first handmade ketubah. Word spread, and other couples began asking her to design their marriage certificates. Since launching the business in 2003, she’s made more than 2,000 ketubahs. Kaplan still creates unique, handmade ketubahs when she has time, though that’s rare these days.

“At that time, one-of-a-kind ketubah prints were unusual,” notes Nishima, 39. “The Jewish market can be old-fashioned, though it’s getting more modern.”

The business has expanded via word-of-mouth as well as the Web site, designed and maintained by Alon. Couples from Canada, Israel and the Czech Republic have ordered Kaplan’s ketubahs online. They’re also available through more than 65 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

In 2004, the couple moved to Asheville and now work full time developing ArtKetubah. The Kaplans also run a Web site called Creative Jewish Living that sells gifts, ritual items and fine art and features writings by Alon and others.

Although he continues to write on the side, he has focused on helping develop the business so his wife can concentrate on creating ketubahs. That changed three months ago when the 40-year-old Alon suffered a massive stroke, caused by an aortic tear that the couple believe was precipitated by an injury caused by his shoulder safety belt during an auto accident.

Alon is at home and recovering, though he’s still still partly paralyzed and is re-learning how to speak. Nishima continues to work while supporting her husband’s recovery and caring for their three children.

“We’re going to get through this and, ultimately, have a really robust business,” she declares. “Right now we’re still a mom-and-pop shop, but we’re developing and expanding.”

Info: ArtKetubah, 33 Fairfax Ave., Asheville NC 28806 (888-843-3323; www.artketubah.com).


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