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Conservative Movement Changes Marriage Contract

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A major revision in the “ketubah”–Jewish marriage contract–which will require man and wife to consult a newly formed Beth Din, in this case a marriage court, before seeking a divorce, was announced here this week-end by leaders of the Conservative movement in America.

Announcement of the new clause in the marriage contract was made jointly by the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Rabbinical Assembly of America. Dr. Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of the Seminary, described the new ketubah as an effort to bring the ancient covenant of marriage “up to date” and to make it effective in terms of modern life, while retaining traditional forms. He said that he expected the innovation to strengthen Jewish home life through marriage counseling, to heal marital rifts and to help stop hasty divorce actions.

The marriage court will begin to function on December 1, by which time Conservative rabbis in the United States will have received the new contracts. A central registry of marriage agreements will be kept on file at the Seminary, The system will operate in this manner; Couples about to break up will seek out their fin rabbi, who will call on the Beth Din if his own attempts at reconciliation fail. The court will then try to adjust the differences. If the couple fail to obey the rulings of the court, they would become liable to severe fines.

A Joint Conference on Jewish Law was also established by the two Conservative bodies, to serve as the official instrument within the Conservative movement for all matters governing Jewish laws of marriage and family welfare.

Members of the new Beth Din are Dr. Ben Zion Bokser, rabbi of the Forest Hills (N. Y.) Jewish Center; Dr. Boaz Cohen, Associate Professor of Rabbinical at the Seminary; Rabbi Theodore Friedman, of Congregation Beth El, South Orange, N. J; and Rabbi Isaac Klein, of Temple Emanuel, Buffalo, N. Y. A fifth member, who will serve as chairman of the court, will be appointed by -Dr. Finkelstein and Rabbi Harry Halpern, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, early next year.

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