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English Translation of the
Traditional Ketubah Text with the Lieberman Clause

Note from Elaine:
The Conservative movement has adopted the use of what is known as the Lieberman Clause, which is inserted into the traditional Aramaic text. It was conceived to prevent a situation where a husband would refuse to grant his wife a get (Jewish divorce document) in the event that she might seek a divorce. You can see the translation below, in a slightly redder text and in brackets about 2/3 of the way down in the traditional text. With this clause, both parties agree that should either decide to dissolve the marriage, both agree to a hearing at the Conservative Bet Din (a court of rabbis) and to abide by its rulings. Hopefully, the decision would be to grant the wife a get that will allow her to remarry and have children without being turned away under Jewish law. Without the get, any future children conceived by the woman would be considered bastards. The men involved in divorce do not require a get or any other special document, and there are no punishments or social ostracism for them or their children.

As instructed by the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, most Conservative rabbis preparing to marry a couple say they should have a ketuba with the Lieberman Clause. Many couples who come to me saying their rabbi requires the Lieberman Clause don't even know what it says or why they are being told to use it. This reminds me of the days of my parents when women were handed a ketuba document at the end of the wedding, never having seen it or participated in its creation or signing, and not even knowing what it said. All they know is that they're supposed to keep it in a safe place. It seems important that couples know what it is they're being asked to incorporate into their ketuba, and to know its origin and purpose, so they can make informed decisions.

Once they learn about the language of the Lieberman Clause, many couples decide they don't want such words hanging on their wall, even if they are in Hebrew or Aramaic and not so easily readable to most. In addition, the clause is quite lengthy when written out, equal to about a third of the original traditional text, resulting in a considerably longer text. This, in turn, requires more artwork around the text. Particularly for a custom ketuba, this can result in a more expensive work of art.

Many of us feel that, if such an agreement is desired by the couple, the Lieberman Clause has greater legal validity as a separate document rather than as part of the standard ketuba text. There are more and more such documents in existence, to be signed alongside the ketuba and put away in a safe place, hopefully never to be needed. Another alternative is to sign an inexpensive copy of a ketuba with the Lieberman Clause, usually provided by the rabbi, and to have the artistic ketuba that hangs on the wall speak to positive outcomes.

I am open to using whatever text my clients choose for their artistic ketuba. It is my desire that they have sufficient information to make make informed decisions in the process.

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Below is a translation of the traditional text with the addition of the Lieberman Clause in brackets and in a redder color:

On the ___ day of the week, the ____ day of the month of ____ in the year five thousand seven hundred and sixty_____ since the creation of the world according to the reckoning which we are accustomed to using here in the city of _____ , _____ son of _____, the groom, said to this maiden, _____ daughter of _____, "Be my wife according to the laws and traditions of Moses and Israel. I will work on your behalf and will honor, sustain, and support you according to the custom of Jewish husbands who faithfully cherish, honor, support, and maintain their wives. And I obligate myself to give you the marriage gift of virgins, two hundred silver zuzim, which belongs to you, and I will also provide your food, clothing, and necessities and will live with you in marital relations according to universal custom." And this maiden, _____, consented and became his wife. The dowry that she brought to him from her father's house, in silver, gold, jewelry, clothes, or furnishings, the groom accepted in the sum of one hundred silver zuzim, and the bridegroom agreed to increase this amount from his own property with the sum of one hundred silver zuzim, making in all two hundred silver zuzim. And thus said _____, the bridegroom, "The responsibility of this ketubah, of this dowry, and of the additional sum I will take upon myself and my heirs after me, so that they shall be paid from the best part of my property and possessions that I have beneath the whole heaven, that which I now possess or may hereafter acquire. All my property, real and personal, even the shirt from my back, shall be mortgaged to secure the payment of this marriage contract, of the dowry, and of the addition made to it, during my lifetime and after my death, from the present day and forever." _____, the bridegroom, has taken upon himself the responsibility of this ketubah, of the dowry, and the addition made to it, according to the restrictive usages of all marriage contracts and their additions made to them for the daughters of Israel according to the enactments of our sages of blessed memory. {The bridegroom, ____, son of ____, and the bride, ____, daughter of ____, further agreed that should either contemplate dissolution of their marriage, or following dissolution of their marriage in the civil courts, each may summon the other to the Beit Din of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, or its representative, to decide what action by either spouse is then appropriate under Jewish matrimonial law, and that each will abide by its instructions so that throughout life each will be able to live according to the laws of the Torah; and if either spouse shall fail to honor the demand of the other or to carry out the decision of the Bet Din or its representative, then the other spouse may invoke any and all remedies available in civil law and equity to enforce compliance with the Bet Din's decision and this solemn obligation} It is not to be regarded as an indecisive contractual obligation or as a mere formula of a document. We have followed the legal formality of symbolic delivery (kinyan) between the bridegroom, _____ son of ____, and _____ daughter of _____, this maiden, and we have used an instrument legally fit for the transaction to make all that is stated and explained above valid and immediately effective.

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