Penn Alumni Gift of Historic Jewish Marriage Contracts to Penn’s Judaica Collections

January 17, 2023
Arthur Kiron

This gift from the Moldovan family collection features rare ketubot

close up of a decorated legal document

On December 21, 2022, Penn’s Judaica collections received a magnificent gift of twenty-seven historic ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts) from Penn alumni Joseph T. Moldovan, C’76 and Susan Alkalay Moldovan, C’76.  The donation features twenty-five handwritten and two printed ketubot, dating from 1678 to 1946, originating in Persia, Gibraltar, Italy, Morocco, Ottoman Palestine, Holland, Tsarist Russia, the U.S., the Kingdom of Poland, Yemen, and British Mandate Palestine. Accompanying the gift are detailed descriptions of each ketubah and high-resolution TIFF images.

This new gift marks the eighth distinct collection given to the Penn Libraries over the course of the last decade by Joseph and Susan Moldovan. The Moldovan Family Collection is comprised of: French Judaica; rare printed books; graphics and prints; hagadot; manuscripts; ritual objects and textiles; a digital collection of Holy Land maps; and now this rare ketubah collection. These donations have been made in honor and memory of Jean and Dr. Alfred Moldovan. Dr. Moldovan was the founder of the Harry G. Friedman Society of Judaica Collectors and is an American Civil Rights hero. He was among the founders of the Medical Committee for Human Rights and provided a medical presence on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. Learn more about Dr. Moldovan.

We are profoundly grateful to the Moldovan Family for the enormous honor of being entrusted with these treasures from the Moldovan Family Collection.

Ketubah with flowers
Place and Date: Venice, Italy, 1678
Medium: parchment, ink, paint, illuminated, double text
Description:  Son-in-law: Shlomo ben Yaakov Crodo; Daughter-in-law: Stila daughter of Yehuda Dil Viquio; Witness: Moshe ben Yaakov Marinis; Witness: Moshe Hai Venturio
Above the inscription: painting of two, trumpeting angels; decorated floral border.  Next to the inscription are the text of the terms (tena’im)
Decorative inscription at top (Simana Tava / Good Prospects)
Script type: Italian square and semi-cursive.
Ketubah with decorative crown
Place and Date: Florence, Italy, 1699:
Medium: ink on parchment
Description:  Date of Wedding: Wednesday - 3rd 2nd Adar 5459 (Mar. 4, 1699) Groom: Yehoshua ben the esteemed Moshe Prato Bride: Seda bat the honored Yehoshua Blanes.  Parchment scalloped at top and covered throughout with shining gold leaf, save for the text and narrow band in the exterior frame. Concentric circles in square border frame the text
Decorative inscription at top: Yerushalayim (Jerusalem)
Script type: Ashkenazic square
Ketubah with birds and flowers
Place and date: Yezd, Persia, 1826
Medium:  Ink and paint, on paper
Description: Date of Wedding: Thursday - 26th Tevet 5586 (Jan. 5, 1826) Groom: Shemuel ben Aba Ha-Cohen Bride: Hanah bat Elazar Ha-Cohen.  Text calligraphically inscribed on ruled lines. Border frame decorated with floral patterns, painted in red (faded), green, yellow and black.  Upper border features two peacocks flanking a tree–a popular motif of harmony and marriage in Persian ketubbot.    
 Decorative Inscription: at top: "Whoever finds a wife finds good and obtains favor from the Lord." (Prov. 18:22)
Script type: Persian, rabbinic-square.  
Place and Date, New York, 1915.
Medium: Color-printed blank form
Description: Printed, illustrated ketubah blank form to complete. Copyright 1915, Hebrew Publishing Company, New York.
Script type: print; Gothic square and cursive Latin characters, Ashkenazic square Hebrew characters.
Decorative printed borders with Jewish iconography.


GIFT FROM THE MOLDOVAN FAMILY COLLECTION By Joseph T. Moldovan C’76 and Susan A. Moldovan C’76.  Donated in Honor and Memory of Jean and Dr. Alfred Moldovan.  Library at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries.


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Arthur Kiron

Arthur Kiron

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