Saturday, November 26, 2016

Mr. Koren and the Warburgs

Eli Koren was the leader of a Zionist youth group that Uncle Joe (Grandpa Ralph's brother) belonged to in Nuremberg. The Korens and Warburgs kept in touch over the years, and whenever cousin Ronnie (Joe's oldest child) was in Israel, he spent time with them.

Ronnie once told me that Mrs. Koren was the first one in Israel to own an oven, I suppose in the late 50s or early 60s. Up until then, people used wonder pots instead of ovens.*(see below for some interesting information on wonderpots)

From Wikipedia:

Eliyahu Koren (July 23, 1907 — February 17, 2001) was a master typographer and graphic artist. After studying in Nuremberg, he immigrated to Palestine 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, with the aim of publishing the first Hebrew Bible designed, edited, printed, and bound by Jews in nearly 500 years. It produced The Koren Bible in 1962, The Koren Siddur in 1981, and the Koren Sacks Siddur in 2009, in addition to numerous editions of these books and other religious texts in Hebrew, English, and other languages.

Koren Type refers to two Hebrew fonts, Koren Bible Type and Hebrew Book Type created by Israeli typographer and graphic designer Elyahu Koren. Koren created Koren Bible Type for the specific purpose of printing The Koren Bible, published by Koren Publishers Jerusalem in 1962. He created Koren Book Type for The Koren Siddur (Prayerbook), which the publishing house produced in 1981.

Koren Bible Type

Judah L. Magnes, President of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem asked Eliyahu Koren, then Korngold, to create a new font for an entirely new edition of the Hebrew Bible that he sought to publish under the University's auspices during World War II. The Bible was to be the first Bible designed, edited, printed, and bound by Jews in nearly 500 years. A design competition was held, and Korngold's font won.

The preliminary version of the font that grew out of the competition was used in an edition of the Book of Jonah issued in 1946 by the publishing house of The Hebrew University (later Magnes Press). The font was not cast for this modest publication, but rather drawn by Korngold and reproduced photographically. The font was based on the Moshe Ben-Asher Codex of the Prophets manuscript, belonging to the Karaite community in Cairo, the earliest Medieval manuscript with a colophon, written in 895 CE in Tiberias.

Following the Hebrew University's decision to publish a different edition of the Bible in 1953, Korngold resigned from the University Bible Committee and took over the initiative of producing a new, fully Jewish Bible with a new font.

Korngold set out to design the most readable Hebrew font possible. He consulted Dr. Arie Feigenbaum, an ophthalmologist, who shared with him research conducted on the legibility of Latin book types. Korngold made clear distinctions between similar letters such as bet and kaf, gimel and nun, dalet and resh. He believed that each letter should be recognizable even if only its top 1/3 were visible. He also believed that designers should learn from the earliest printers and typographers, who based their fonts on fine handwriting.

The final design was the result of Korngold's study and re-study of Hebrew manuscripts and early printing types, and a sensitive approach to modernization that maintained serifs and shading (the contrast of thick and thin elements of the letter).

The Koren Bible Type was cast in 36-point by Deberny & Peignot, the largest typefounding firm in France, over the course of two years. The type arrived in Israel in 1957, and a proof page was printed at Ahva Press. Korngold (now Koren), disappointed by the result, insisted that the foundry redo the type due to a loss of character in the letters' corners. The foundry agreed, after their microscopic examination proved that the Koren type was off by .03 millimeters.

Koren Book Type
Eliyahu Koren created Koren Book Type for use in the Koren Siddur, published in 1981.

Koren Type has been used in publications of Koren Publishers Jerusalem ever since, as well as in other important texts. The Jewish Braille Institute of America has used Koren Type for books published for the partially sighted.


When we made aliyah in 1983, I made an appointment with Mr. Koren and showed him my calligraphy portfolio. I didn't really know if I would be able to find a job using my calligraphy skills and I hoped that he might point me in the right direction if it was possible.

He told me that he had been dreaming of a project for 40 years and he wanted me to do it for him. Gulp...

The project was a series of small books containing selections from Tehilim, Mishlei and, I think, Pirkei Avot. The books were to be done in Hebrew calligraphy with translations into 3 languages that would be typeset.

In my usual, semi-functional way, I only managed to complete about half of the assigned psukim in Mishlei, and the rest was done by an in-house graphic artist, Tamar Halevi.

I am honored to have known and worked with Eli Koren and am very grateful for the opportunity that he gave me.

I came across a video on youtube a few years ago that shows some of the book:

* Here's wikipedia's take on wonder pots. I used to use one when we first made aliyah.

By Yoninah - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Yoninah - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Wonder Pot
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wonder Pot (Hebrew: סיר פלא‎‎, sír péle, Hebrew pronunciation: [/siʁ ˈpe̞le̞/]) is an Israeli invention for baking on top of a gas stove rather than in an oven. It consists of three parts: an aluminium pot shaped like a Bundt pan except smooth-sided rather than fluted, a hooded cover perforated with venting holes, and a thick, round, slightly domed metal disc with a center hole that is placed between the pot and the flame.

A Wonder Pot can be used to bake cakes, casseroles, rice, potatoes, apples, and even meat and chicken.

The Wonder Pot gained popularity during Israel's era of national austerity in the 1950s, when most citizens did not own an oven. The concept was based on models from Germany and Eastern Europe, and was first manufactured by the Palalum company (the company name was a contraction of the words pele (wonder) and aluminium). Later the Wonder Pot was manufactured by other companies in the Haredi sector, including the Matlum company, which continues to produce the item today.

The Wonder Pot retained its popularity through the 1970s, especially among new immigrants who did not have ovens. During its heyday, the Wonder Pot spawned its own bestselling cookbook. The introduction of the microwave oven and a national desire to dissociate with the austerity mentality put an end to its widespread use. However, the Wonder Pot is still used by Israeli Haredi families for baking kugels, and it is also popular in this sector on the holiday of Passover for those who do not have a kosher-for-Passover oven.

Today the Wonder Pot is considered a nostalgic Israeli kitchen item. It is still sold in traditional housewares stores, via marketing outlets, and in Haredi communities such as Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. In the late 2000s decade, a housewares store calling itself Seer Peh-leh ("Wonder Pot") opened in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

How it works

Metal disc placed between the Wonder Pot and the flame
The Wonder Pot is effective at baking on top of the stove for three reasons: its aluminium material, its hole, and the metal disc separating it from the flame. The aluminium material allows heat to spread uniformly. The center hole of the pot focuses the flame and creates heat dispersion around the inside of the cake. The metal disc lifts the pot off the fire, reducing and focusing the flame. Baking in the Wonder Pot without the metal disc will produce a cake that is dry on the bottom and thick and wobbly in the center. The metal disc is sold in different thicknesses and diameters to accommodate different baking times and larger flames. The lid of the Wonder Pot is perforated with small holes to release steam. Baking time in a Wonder Pot varies from 40 to 50 minutes.

The Wonder Pot produces high and airy cakes. In addition to baking, the Wonder Pot is an effective medium for cooking vegetables, legumes, and rice in layers. It can also be used to cook kugels, casseroles, pasta dishes, meat, and chicken.

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