Meet Mr. Jerusalem- The story of Eliyahu Koren and his flagship publication, The Koren Tanakh. Celebrating the 52nd Yom Yerushalayim

When Eliyahu Korngold made aliyah, he was passionate about a number of things, primarily art, the Hebrew letter and Jerusalem. He left Germany in 1933, changed his last name to Koren and set sail for Eretz Yisrael.

For Mr. Koren, Jerusalem was the manifestation of beauty and tradition. It was a city that represented vitality, rebirth and promise for the Jewish people as a whole. He began working at the Jewish National Fund (KKL), designing graphic elements that became iconic to the State, including the first official stamp of Israel and Jerusalem’s official coat of arms, still in use today.

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The Official Israeli stamp for The Koren Tanakh’s 50th anniversary

 Mr. Koren eventually launched his own company, Koren Publishers Jerusalem, as he prepared to reveal his flagship project to the world: The Koren Tanakh (the English translation is known as The Jerusalem Bible). Published in 1962, The Koren Tanakh became the first Hebrew Bible to be produced entirely by Jews in 500 years and the first Tanakh published in the new State of Israel. Prior to that time, most versions of the Hebrew Bible had been produced by Christian publishers and were rife with printing errors. Determined to rectify these mistakes, Koren worked on the Tanakh for two decades, consulting with experts on medieval manuscripts, Hebrew grammarians, copyeditors, and opticians so he could to develop the most accurate, legible design. He aspired to revitalize the Hebrew letter with a new, precise font that would reflect the sacredness and majesty of the Torah while restoring ‘ownership’ of the Hebrew Bible to the Jewish people.

For Eliyahu Koren, it was time the words of the prophet Isaiah came to life: כִּי מִצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵא תוֹרָה וּדְבַר ה’ מִירוּשָׁלָ‍ִם, “For out of Zion shall the Torah go forth and the word of G-d from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). He designed a gold logo for the spine of his Tanakh which would shine the crown of Jerusalem.

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Eliyahu Koren

The world would know that Jerusalem was at the heart of the company.

Mr. Koren’s remarkable design of the Hebrew lettering and נִקּוּד (vowelization) won the attention of leading dignitaries. The Koren Tanakh became the official Tanakh on which the President of Israel took his oath, while the Israeli Rabbinate named it as the authoritative Tanakh for the most accurate Haftarah readings. To this very day, troops in the IDF receive a personal copy of the Koren Tanakh at their induction ceremonies. With this juxtaposition of physical and spiritual, The Koren Tanakh became a symbol of Zionism and the revival of the Jewish people in their national homeland.

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Today, Koren Publishers Jerusalem continues to bring the Hebrew letter to life. Still headquartered in Jerusalem, the company most recently modernized the Rashi script, based on sketches originally designed by Mr. Koren. Rashi’s original text was restored, rectifying printing errors seen in most other Humashim. Like the other Koren fonts, the text is crisp, contemporary and legible. It can be seen in The Steinsaltz Humash and in upcoming projects.

Now, more than 50 years later, students of all ages continue to use The Koren Tanakh and especially love the new colorful editions. On bookshelves around the world, the gold Koren logo shines, reminding us that, like Eliyahu Koren, our center and passion as a people will always be Jerusalem.

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