What is the Ketubah Lieberman Clause?

A traditional illustrated ketubah (Jewish marr...

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When choosing Ketubah text you may be asked if you want to include the Lieberman Clause, and it is important that you understand the significance of the Lieberman Clause in your Ketubah. If you are having an Orthodox Jewish marriage the Lieberman Clause will not be included, but every couple planning on a Jewish wedding must consult with their Rabbi before the wedding ceremony concerning whether the Lieberman Clause will be included in the Ketubah and whether a Ketubah with the Lieberman Clause is acceptable by him.

The traditional Orthodox Jewish marriage contract, the Ketubah, was originally protection for the bride. If the ‘get’ is not granted by the husband, out of spite, abandonment or other reasons, the woman remains married under Jewish law and cannot remarry within her faith even if a civil divorce has been declared. The problem of abandoned wives being left agunah (chained or anchored) women who cannot get divorced or remarried as they are without a get has been a hotly debated topic among the Jewish movements for years. The Lieberman Clause was introduced in 1953 by the Jewish Conservative Movement, the Rabbinical Assembly, and the Theological Seminary. The Jewish Talmudic student Saul Lieberman created a clause to be included in the Jewish Conservative Movement’s Ketubah. 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. In almost all cases this arbitration under the Lieberman Clause results in the rabbinical court granting the wife a get.

The Lieberman Clause is not added to the original Ketubah text in Orthodox Ketubah contract and is not recognized by the Orthodox Jewish Movement including the Rabbinical Council of America and 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 deciding on your Ketubah text be sure to ask your Rabbi where he stands on this issue.

There exist other solutions to the problem of un-granted bills of Jewish divorce, for example in 1991 in the USA a separate document or Letter of Intent was introduced which Jewish couples read and sign before the wedding testifying that they have understood the content of the Ketubah text. This letter is upheld by the US court system.  There have been concerns about the US principle of separating 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 a problem with the Lieberman Clause in the Ketubah, there are also Conservative Rabbis who prefer other methods of solving the problem of the Agunah (women without a get).

Never the less, today the Lieberman Clause is generally accepted as a part of the Conservative Jewish Ketubah text, although it can also be excluded. 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.


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