Heather Ben-David works in the digital marketing department at Koren. She oversees Koren’s various social media channels and is the chief editor of the Koren blog. Originally from Seattle, WA, Heather made Aliya in 2014 to Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu where she worked in the vineyards. Currently she lives in Jerusalem and when she’s not at work she is at Hebrew University working on her Master’s degree in English literature.
by Rabbi Steinsaltz
As an individual that became religiously observant as an adult, Rabbi Steinsaltz’s Teshuvah is a must read. The first half details issues unique to the baalei teshuva such as what it means to do “teshuvah” in the modern world, how to relate to your past, what happens if one lapses, is it really all or nothing? The second half is a beginner’s guide to religious Jewish life with chapters on kashrut, the holidays, Shabbat and more.
I may be a little biased in this choice as an alumna of Midreshet Nishmat. Despite this bias I still believe this would make my list. Nishmat’s Yoetzot Halakha have changed the world for religiously observant women by making family purity laws more accessible with their hotline and their website. Nishmat HaBayit compiles over 20 years’ worth of questions and answers followed by medical appendices. This volume is an important addition to the library of any Jewish woman observing the laws of family purity. Nishmay HaBayit is available in Hebrew only.
by Rabbi Levi Cooper
Getting caught up in the excitement of Siyum HaShas earlier this month, I decided to try to learn daf yomi this cycle (with The Noé Edition Koren Talmud Bavli, of course). However, I found myself not connecting as deeply to Talmud learning as I had hoped…until I found Levi Cooper’s Relics for the Present series. A page by page companion to Masekhet Berakhot, Cooper’s series brings the Talmudic text to life serving both as a summary of each page and giving extra sources and commentary to further add to the depth of Talmud learning.
by SY Agnon
As a student of literature, I have always loved The Agnon Library. The Orange Peel and Other Satires, however, might be my favorite collection. The cutting political satire depicting the early Zionist movement and the birth of the state of Israel connected me as an immigrant to Israel to the early history of the country that I now call home. Some of the problems facing the newborn state are still issues today and Agnon’s satires bring humor and critical thought to what it means to have a Jewish homeland in the modern day. While I love the satire and the quick wit of the literary giant Agnon, it is the final chapter that makes the book. A serious reflection on the horrors of the Holocaust and the loss of life necessary to found the state of Israel, this short chapter is a classic Israeli piece that is still recited on Memorial Day every year.
The Koren Pirkei Avot features the English translation of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks with commentary by Rabbi Marc Angel. Although I’ve learned Pirkei Avot many times before, using the Koren Pirkei Avot and specifically the commentary by Rabbi Angel transformed my learning experience. Each line is explained clearly and opened the text up for me in a way I had never experienced. Pirkei Avot is one of Judaism’s most significant texts in that it gives us a distinct ethical outlook from our sages and Rabbi Angel’s commentaries allow the English speaking student to more fully connect to the ancient wisdom of this work.