The Jews of Corfu: Between the Adriatic and the Ionian

Ketubbot of Corfu

Ketubbot created during the Venetian period in Corfu have clear indicators of Venetian influence - in colors, design, and layout: using the distinctive love knot and zodiac symbols surrounding the text, and containing both the formal text of the ketubah as well as the dowry and the tena'im (engagement conditions).

As noted by Shalom Sabar, Romaniote ketubbot from Corfu include three distinct differences from standard Jewish marriage documents:

1. Including a date listing the years since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (by Rabbinic calculation, 68 CE). This is based on the injunction to “raise [the memory of] Jerusalem at the peak of my joy.” (Psalms 137:6). CUL MS X893 K5199993 (1730) is an example of a ketubbah with the Temple itself placed on the top and center of the document - in this case literally "raised to the peak" of the joyous occasion.

2. Include a clause in which the bride states her duties: ‘to honor him and serve him in cleanliness and purity, as decent and modest Jewish women honor and serve their husbands’ (translation from Sabar).  The top center image of CUL MS X893 K51991 (1820) includes a rare drawing of the bride and groom dressed in their finest clothes.

3. On the day following the wedding, the groom would add a notation confirming the bride’s virginity prior to the wedding night. An example of this can be seen in the bottom left of JTS KET 41, on the lower left side of the document.

Note especially the very last ketubbah shown here, commemorating a wedding that took place only two weeks before the deportation of the Jews of the island of Corfu to Auschwitz in 1944, where two-thirds of the community were murdered. 

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