Jewish paper cutting is an ancient form of decoration that uses delicately cut Jewish symbols, ornaments and Hebrew letters. The paper cut layer is often glued on a contrasting piece of paper in order to highlight the work and throw a shadow on it. More contemporary works, especially paper cut ketubahs, leave the cut-out section bare.
In centuries past, this form of Jewish art was very popular, and traces of it have been found in Jewish communities throughout the world- from Eastern Europe to Iraq. The first mention of Jewish paper cutting is attributed to Rabbi Shem Tov ben Isaac ben Ardutiel (1290-1369), a 14th-centrury Spanish Rabbi who mentions using paper cutting in one of his treatises.
Paper cutting was especially popular in decorating the ketubah- the Jewish marriage contract. Antique paper cut ketubahs are rich in Jewish symbolism. Many have motifs of Jerusalem, Menorahs, biblical scenes, the Star of David, the Tree of Life and a five-fingered hand known as a Hamsa. The style was predominately influenced by the type of Jewish affiliation, whether Sphardi or Ashkenazi, and the geographical location of the artist.
Regretfully, Jewish paper cutting and paper cut ketubahs began to disappear in the first half of the twentieth century, primarily because of assimilation trends and the desire to leave traditional practices behind.
Over the past 20 years however the art of Jewish paper cutting has been resurrected and it has made a remarkable comeback. One of the most significant advances in the field has been laser cutting technology. Using laser cutting, artists are able to create works with unprecedented precision. As can be seen by the latest models of paper cut ketubahs whose details and intricacies are outstanding. Laser cutting has also made the art form more accessible. In addition to making one-of-a-kind pieces, artists can also create a series of works which are more affordable to the public.