Ketubah: Lieberman Clause

Although it is commonly added to Jewish Ketubot in the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism in Orthodox weddings the Lieberman Clauseis not added to the Ketubah.The Jewish Ketubah was at first penned about 2000 years ago, and the terms,

A traditional illustrated ketubah (Jewish marr...

Image via Wikipedia

 although meant to protect the bride’s rights, quite often left her divorced and unable to remarry under Jewish law. In order to make a Ketubah marriage contract null and void the hubby – and not the wife – needed to grant a bill of divorce or “Get” to the wife. If the Get was refused  by the husband, for any reason, the woman stayed in a kind of marital limbo, not attached and yet not free. Making her an Agunah.With the evolution of woman’s rights the Ketubah is no longer a woman’s only claim to justice during divorce. If the Get is not granted by the husband, out of spite, abandonment or other reasons, then the woman remains married under Jewish law and cannot remarry within her faith even if a civil divorce has been declared. Many a heated discussion has taken place in Jewish circles as to the fate of a wife who has not been given a Get and thus is agunah.

The Lieberman Clause is supposed to fix the difficulty of the Agunah

The Jewish Talmudic student Saul Lieberman created a clause to be included in the Ketubah belonging to the Jewish Conservative Movement. The Lieberman clause is added to the Ketubah text stipulating that in the event that the marriage is dissolved, and the wife refused a Get, both husband and wife may request to appear before a Rabbinical court for arbitration. The Rabbinical court can then grant the Get even when the husband refuses.

The Lieberman Clause does not appear in the original orthodox Ketubah text and

Ketubah

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 is not accepted by the Orthodox Jewish Movement including the Rabbinical Council of Americaand the Rabbinical Council in Israel. Rabbinical approval of the Ketubah Lieberman Clause has never been universally accepted and different Rabbis have different opinions about the validity of the Lieberman Clause’s inclusion in the Ketubah. When selecting on your Ketubah text be sure to ask your Rabbi where he stands on this concern.There exist other solutions to the problem of un-granted bills of Jewish divorce, i.e.;  in 1991 in the United States of America a separate contract or “Letter of Intent” was created which Jewish newlyweds read and sign before the wedding testifying that they have recognized the writing of the Ketubah text. This letter is upheld by the US court system. There have been concerns about the U.S. principal of separation of church and state, thus there are conflicting opinions in US courts as to the validity of the Ketubah Lieberman Clause as a civil legal document. Not only Orthodox Rabbis have concerns with the Lieberman Clause in the Ketubah, there are also Conservative Rabbis who opt for other methods of resolving the dilemma of the Agunah (women without a Get).
Those wedding in a Reform or Conservative Jewish ceremony will most likely have the clause included. Not including the Lieberman Clause in your Ketubah text will not affect any future civil divorce rights what so ever. Only in the sight of the Jewish Rabbinate, does this make a difference.

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