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Canadian artist incorporates personal elements for each bride and groom.

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This ketubah ‘Rondel’ by Laya Crust has eight Moorish arches with illustrations referring to the bride and the groom. (Photo: Supplied)

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Laya Crust, a native of Winnipeg, grew up in a traditional Jewish home where she developed a great respect for Judaism, loved the music in prayer as well as the richness of Jewish history and culture. She moved to downtown Toronto in the late nineteen-seventies where she found a warm Jewish community that offered her opportunities to become more involved with Jewish practice and learning.

On the Sabbath, she attended services at the Markham Street Shul, a traditional Orthodox synagogue and joined Hillel, a Jewish student organization at the University of Toronto that offered a variety of interesting programs and classes.

“I began to keep Shabbat and attended Jewish lectures. I studied painting, printmaking and kept drawing whatever I saw around me”, she says. 

Laya began her studies in art and design at the University of Manitoba and later earned a B.A. in Arts and Languages from the University of Toronto. Afterwards, she enrolled at the Three Schools of Art, a small independent art school and at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. She found art to be a wonderful expression of her faith and decided to enroll in a basic calligraphy class at Hillel. After she was assigned to design her first ketubah for her class, she knew that she had found her true calling.

“The eclectic mix of art, design, drafting, history and Jewish learning that I had pursued on my own was the perfect preparation for ketubah design. “I did not realize it then,” she now says, “but the 2 driving forces of my life, my Judaism and my art, crossed paths and held fast within the borders of that holy document”

Skipping ahead 40 years, she has produced over 600 original Ketubot. She has become an internationally recognized artist who designs art in a variety of media. A water colourist and a scribe, she has also worked in clay, fabric and glass. Foremost a painter, Laya creates hand-made artist books, ceremonial objects, presentation pieces for international organizations, and architectural installations.

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Her experience in creating distinctive and richly designed ketubot is demonstrated in her extensive portfolio and her understanding of historical and contemporary styles.

The traditional and historical ketubah is a binding legal document which catalogs a husband’s obligations to his wife, and it makes financial provisions for her protection in the event of divorce or her husband’s death. The agreement was established to ensure that women’s rights were protected.

The ketubah text that has come down to us today closely resembles the one codified two thousand years ago. It is written in Aramaic, the language of legal and technical matters at the time, and an entire tractate of the Talmud is devoted to its intricacies. The document was used throughout the Jewish world. At different points in history, some communities decorated their ketubot and included designs that reflected the culture and history of the setting.

"Stairway to Heaven" is a three-dimensional piece with papercut and gold leaf. This couple valued family above all else and saw their lives as a journey to explore and reach higher for their ideals and their goals. (Photo: Supplied)

Certain Italian ketubah styles framed the text within architectural portals, often used biblical scenes and even included verses such as quotes from the Song of Songs or the Book of Esther.

The Jews of Cochin who were the oldest group of Indian Jews, embellished their ketubot with exotic birds and local flora in multi-coloured geometric designs. Persian design was characteristically enriched with floral compositions and included the national symbols of Persia, the rising sun behind the lion.

The central image of “Wedding Ring” is inspired by the history of ornate community wedding rings used in Medieval Europe, dating back to the 14th -16th centuries. Many of the rings were owned by the community and the brides would wear them at their weddings, and then return them. (Photo: Supplied)

In contemporary times, it has become possible to purchase pre-printed ketubot which can be used at weddings by filling in names, dates and any other pertinent information of importance to the bride and groom. With all ketubot, two witnesses are required to sign the document prior to the wedding ceremony.

Since the 1970’s, there has been a resurgence in commissioned, hand drawn ketubot, designed by skilled artists and calligraphers such as Laya. These are personalized in that the couple is included in the planning process and can decide about particular embellishments or designs that reflect their tastes and even their interests and shared values.

One of Canada’s top artists, Laya Crust knew that she had found her true calling the first timer she was assigned to design a ketubah. (Photo: Supplied)

She explained that, “Each ketubah I make is unique and I try to incorporate personal elements for each bride and groom. My approach is that almost anything is possible- so I’ve done pieces with folded fans that I’ve painted then glued to the background, I’ve glued semi-precious gems onto the design, glued on little mirrors so the design is reminiscent of an Indian fabric, done papercut, and a 3-dimensional staircase with the ketubah text on the staircase itself.”

These designs are innovative and are beautifully executed and illustrated by this very talented artist.

For more information on her artistic accomplishments, you can visit her website at https://www.layacrust.com.

Judy Weinryb is a published author who facilitates a Creative Writing class on zoom at the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living. She has been a freelance writer for the Canadian Jewish News, the Jewish Tribune and the Markham Review. A social worker for many years, she has an interest in Jewish Community from both a professional and personal perspective.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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