Benjamin Friedlander and Helen Epstein's Ketubah; June 11, 1911
Benjamin Friedlander and Helen Epstein's Ketubah; June 11, 1911

This is the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) of my great, great grandparents—Benjamin Friedlander and Helen Epstein. On June 11, 1911 they were married in a Jewish ceremony at Jefferson Square Hall, in San Francisco, California. Benjamin and Helen are the first members of my family to immigrate to America, and their journeys and life together set the trajectory of my family in motion—four generations of my family have lived in the Bay Area since them. Inasmuch, their immigration story and marriage are integral to my family’s Jewish and San Franciscan history and identity. Additionally, their marriage document is significant in the greater tale of Jewish immigration to the US. Benjamin and Helen met in a burgeoning city thousands of miles away from their Northern European birthplaces due to religious commonalities. Ultimately, their wedding ceremony married Jewish tradition and modernity; their ceremony was religiously officiated, but was held in a nonreligious space and followed by a secular wedding celebration. The interplay between religious tradition and modernity in their marital union, and subsequent life together, indicates the type of assimilation that many Jewish immigrants grappled with in the move from Europe to the US. In conclusion, this marriage document that bound Benjamin and Helen—known as Papa Ben and Baba, respectively, in my family—to each other, is a symbol not only of their partnership and life, but to four subsequent generations of history. 

Place(s): San Francisco, California
Year: 1904

– Kayla Levy

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more