Eliyahu Koren

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Eliyahu Koren
BornJuly 23, 1907
Nuremberg, Germany
DiedFebruary 17, 2001
Jerusalem, Israel
Other namesEliyahu Korngold
OccupationTypographer, Graphic Designer
Spouse(s)Channa Neuwirth
WebsiteKoren Publishers Jerusalem website

Eliyahu Koren (Hebrew: אליהו קורן; July 23, 1907 — February 17, 2001) was a master typographer and graphic artist. After studying in Nuremberg, he immigrated to Israel in 1933. He served as head of the graphics department of Keren Kayemet, the Jewish National Fund, from 1936 to 1957. He founded Koren Publishers Jerusalem in 1961, which published the Koren Bible in 1962. He published the Koren Siddur in 1981, and various religious texts until his death.


Eliyahu Koren (né Korngold) was born in Nuremberg, Germany. He showed a rare artistic talent from an early age. After studying at the Gymnasium, Korngold attended the Kunstschule der Stadt Nurnberg, the city's School of Graphic and Applied Art, completing a six-year course of graphic art, applied art, and stained glass in three years.

In 1933, when he was an assistant to a professor at the Kunstschule, and a youth leader in the Ezra religious youth movement, Korngold read that Bavarian Jews were being required to carry special secret police travel permits to travel abroad. "I saw by this verdict divestiture of the freedom of the Jewish individual, and decided to leave Germany at the earliest possible hour,"[1] he would later recall. Korngold and a group of friends left Bavaria on April 1, 1933, and arrived in Haifa, Palestine on May 15 of that year.

For six months, Korngold worked for one of the few graphic designers in Palestine at the time, Rudi Deutsch (Dayan), in Tel Aviv. Next he prepared illustrations for various books and exhibitions. From 1936 to 1957, Korngold headed the graphics department of Keren Kayemet, the Jewish National Fund, where he was responsible for graphics, publications, stamps, and the organization's Golden Book. During that time, he also designed the present coat of arms of the city of Jerusalem.[2]

The Koren Bible[edit]

By the mid-late 1950s, Korngold had begun to work on what would become his most significant work, The Koren Bible. Korngold was committed to publishing a Hebrew Bible designed, edited, printed, and bound by Jews—something that had not been accomplished in nearly 500 years. The first printed Hebrew Bibles from Italy (1488) were printed by Jews, but after Daniel Bomberg's 1517 Venice printing, all editions up to the 20th century had non-Jewish publishers or printers, and errors had found their way into the text.

Korngold had been approached by Judah L. Magnes, then president of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem about creating a new font for a new edition of the Hebrew Bible in the 1940s. Korngold set to work on a font and won a competition for the project, but following years of work on the University's Bible Committee, which Korngold chaired, the project moved in a direction that he and many Bible scholars found unacceptable. Rather than create a wholly new edition of the Bible, in 1953 Hebrew University Press published a photographic offset of Christian David Ginsburg's British and Foreign Bible Society edition to which hundreds of corrections had been made by Umberto Cassuto on the basis of the Aleppo Codex and other very old manuscripts, producing a text of unprecedented accuracy.[3] Korngold resigned from the committee.

He then set himself to the task of producing a new edition of the Hebrew Bible on his own. In 1957, he established an independent studio, and in 1961 founded Koren Publishers Jerusalem. Korngold worked painstakingly on the project, correcting typesetting errors of previous editions, and creating a new font, Koren Bible Type to enable the text to be as accurate and legible as possible. The text, vocalization, and cantillation were based on a Bible edition of the early 19th century German Jewish grammarian and masoretic scholar Wolf Heidenheim. Avraham Meir Habermann, Daniel Goldschmidt, and Meir Medan proofread and edited the text.

In 1962, during the Chanukah holiday, Koren Publishers Jerusalem published the Torah, the first part of The Koren Bible. The entire Bible appeared nearly two years later. During this time, Korngold changed his name to Koren.

The Koren Bible was immediately recognized as the new standard Hebrew Bible. In response to its publication, David Ben-Gurion declared, "Israel is redeemed from shame." The Chief Rabbinate of Israel accepted the edition for reading Haftarah (prophetic portions) in synagogues when the handwritten parchment scroll is not used. The Koren Bible became the Bible on which the President of Israel is sworn into office. The Israel Ministry of Education and Israeli municipalities began distributing The Koren Bible as gifts to high school graduates, and the Israel Defense Forces began distributing The Koren Bible to newly inducted soldiers.

However, the quality of the text has been criticized by scholars. For example, Moshe Goshen-Gottstein said: "Since he was aware of his lack in masoretic expertise, he sought the help of three scholars, all of who suffered from the same lack of masoretic expertise ... while the publisher made persistent claims that this was the first edition set and printed in their old/new homeland, this was, in fact ... hardly an edition like that of Dotan, but another rehash of the material prepared by ben Hayim." [4]

Koren Publishers Jerusalem later published a Hebrew/English edition of the Koren Bible with a new translation by Professor Harold Fisch, a Biblical and literary scholar.

The Koren Siddur[edit]

Koren began work on a new prayerbook in the 1970s. Koren created Koren Book Type for the project, and an innovative design for which the siddur would become famous. Rather than allow the text to run continuously across page turns, Koren maintained lines and paragraphs within individual pages. He set individual sentences line by line, according to their meaning. The result was a prayerbook, published in 1981, that facilitated uninterrupted prayer and elucidated the underlying meaning of the text. The siddur became one of the most widely used prayerbooks in Israel. In 2009, Koren Publishers Jerusalem introduced a new Hebrew-English edition of the Koren Siddur, the Koren Sacks Siddur, with an introduction, translation, and commentary by Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. ^ Avrin, Leila. "People of the Book: Eliyahu Koren", Israel Bibliophiles, Spring 1986.
  2. ^ Jeremy Stolow, Orthodox by Design: Judaism, Print Politics, and the ArtScroll Revolution University of California Press, 2010
  3. ^ Leon Simon, "The Jerusalem Bible", Vetus Testamentum, 4, 109-110 (1954)
  4. ^ "Sha'are Talmon, ed. Michael Fishbane and Emanuel Tov, Eisenbrauns, 1992 pages 239 & 240.