New Koren, future Korens

My new personal size, softcover Koren Talpiot, with some girl’s Blackberry for size

I just got my new Koren Talpiot Siddur. This edition is new to me, though it was originally published last year. I’ll start by talking about this edition in particular, and continue with some speculations about where Koren’s English offerings seem to be headed.

Baruch She'amar is always my favorite page in a Koren Siddur. Of course, KTS preserves the usual elegant Koren fonts and layout from the original Israeli editions. KTS, however adds English instructions, as you can see at the top right.

The Koren Talpiot Siddur varies from the more common Koren Sacks Siddur (more on KSS from me) in that it provides no commentary and no translation, though the content of the prayers is the same as KSS. The familiar Koren fonts and layout are, of course, intact. Though it doesn’t have commentary or translation, KTS has English introductions, halachic guides to the year and to visiting Israel and so forth–in short, the same appendixes Koren Sacks has. It’s meant for an English-speaking Diaspora audience that is comfortable enough with liturgical Hebrew that it doesn’t need translation, but still wants minimal English instructions. I’m not sure if I quite fall in that camp, but I’m planning a road test of KTS for Friday night, so we’ll see how that goes.

Oh, hey, Koren. You've lost weight.

Because it doesn’t have translations or commentary, it is noticeably slimmer than most American siddurim. The page size of the personal size edition I got is the same as my Koren Sacks, but KTS ends up about twice as slim, making it a perfect size, as far as I’m concerned. It also reminds me of the most notoriously small of the pocket size Israeli Korens. (I mean, it’s not as skinny as those Israelis are, but… this joke is going nowhere.)

However, as you can see in the photo of the spine to the right and in the photo of the cover below, the gold printing has been offset–and not because it looks cool. This is a little disappointing coming Koren, from whom we usually expect excellence in design. I don’t mind it on my copy because it adds character, but it was pretty surprising to see such a production error from Koren.

You can see the sturdy, but flexible cover as well as the mistake with the offset gold printing

KTS has a couple of nice features with the cover that my Koresn Sacks doesn’t have, though I think the more resent copies of Sacks have had these features added. Like a hardcover book, KTS’ cover is slightly taller and wider than the pages themselves. This not only looks nice, but it will add some protection to the pages in a cluttered backpack like mine. The cover is also thicker and feels sturdier. I’m not sure how obvious this is in the picture above, but the cover is flexible, but slightly stiffer than the cover on my Sacks. This is also gonna help this siddur out in my backpack. KTS also has a dark blue ribbon bookmark built in, which is great. (I recently bought some ribbon and went on a rampage making these for some of the my other often-used siddurim so I appreciated that.)

An example of the innovative newspaper-style line that refers you to the appropriate next page

There’s also one more feature that I’ve never seen before. When you read English sections of siddurim that are printed right-to-left, Hebrew-style, you (and by you, I mean me) can get confused about which page is the next page. KTS has, at the bottom of each English introduction page, a little indicator of what the first words are on the page that is meant to be read next. Has anyone seen examples of this before?

Koren is my favorite publisher of Orthodox siddurim–and my favorite of all in terms of visual elegance. It is the outgrowth of Eliyahu Koren’s classic 20th century Hebrew typefaces. The fonts are elegant, and from them, Koren created an elegant line of siddurim, probably the most popular in Israel.

The full line of Koren Sacks Siddur editions. That red one is the Canadian one. Mine is the smallest size.

In the summer of 2009, the Koren Sacks Siddur arrived. (Mine, which you can see around the middle of the banner image I’m currently using at the top of the blog, is looking a little worse for the wear–point is, I like it a lot and it gets a lot of use.) It was a major challenger to the ArtScroll monopoly on Orthodox publishing in America, featuring Koren’s elegant design, and translation and commentary by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of England (or of Great Britain or of the United Kingdom… or whatever his position actually is).

Man, this ad really got my hopes up. Needless to say, it did not come out this spring. It's now slated for March of 2011.

Next year–I hope, but the date keeps getting pushed back–they’re coming out with the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, which will include the commentary of “The Rav” himself, Joseph Soloveitchik. I’m very excited about this. They already have the Kinot HaRav, a Tisha Be’Av siddur with his commentary, though I don’t have it and I haven’t had the chance to flip through one yet.

What’s interesting is how consciously they seem to be positioning themselves to overtake ArtScroll. People–including me–keep saying that they will overtake ArtScroll, but they haven’t yet. ArtScroll has a broad appeal to many streams of Orthodoxy, while Koren is targetting only Modern Orthodox Jews. This much is clear from their special attention paid to luminaries of the center or center-left Modern Orthodox communitie like Sacks and Soloveitchik–especially Soloveitchik.

The plainer cover of the standard Israeli Koren siddur

They’ve also changed their visual style to compete with ArtScroll. In Israel, Koren’s siddurim have remarkably plain covers. Yet, here they’ve settled on a more ornate cover, usually grey-blue with an embossed design, gold details (which they share with some of the Israeli editions) and the block of red in the middle. Though this is the standard, there are variations now, like white with gold (some ArtScroll titles are also available in this style) and leatherbound editions. And the prominently displayed Orthodox Union logo on the spine is no sublte reminder of the official endorsement that ArtScroll either never sought, or never got, despite being common in many, if not most OU shuls. [UPDATE: Apparently, all of the new copies being printed in Israel these days have the fancy cover style too. So never mind that…]

The full English instructions Koren Talpiot Siddur series--now in more colors!

Koren’s English offerings are being billed so far as useful in both Israel and America (and Canda–yes, there’s a Canadian version of the Koren Sacks). They have complete guides to the minute differences in prayer in Israel and in the Diaspora.

ArtScroll, however, has been at it longer and has a wider variety of siddurim and styles. They have siddurim with translation and commentary and transliterations, as well as linear and interlinear versions of everything. Meanwhile, Koren has two different versions of the same linear Hebrew-English siddur with different commentaries, and now the Talpiot, which is Hebrew-only, but includes English instructions and guides. ArtScroll has machzorim, of course, but Koren doesn’t have that yet in English. ArtScroll also offers Sephardi versions of some titles, but Koren is all Ashkenazi in their English titles so far.

But, if the fact that they identify themselves as Ashkenazi on the spine is any indication, Koren has plans to publish other nuschot in English as well. They do have Hebrew editions on nuschot Sephardi, Sefard and Moroccan. (Don’t know about Edot haMizrah, though.) I know that they’re working on adapting Sacks for a Sephardi edition, I’d guess that most of this is farther out on the horizon. They’ll want to gain more penetration in the larger Ashkenazi market in America first.

So we’ll see what happens.

Advertisements

42 responses to “New Koren, future Korens

  1. Has anyone seen examples of this before?

    The first-word-the-next-page indicator is very common in older printing.

    And the prominently displayed Orthodox Union logo on the spine is no sublte (sic) reminder of the official endorsement that ArtScroll either never sought, or never got, despite being common in many, if not most OU shuls.

    The black cover Artscroll siddur (“RCA edition”) was endorsed by the OU. The main difference between it and the original is that includes the prayer for the state of Israel.

    • I’m dumb. I knew that. I even have the RCA one on my personal wishlist because I know that and I want to have both versions (I’m into completeness).

      Either way, it’s still telling that there the OU-ArtScroll partnership ended and that Koren has created such a close relationship with the OU so quickly.

  2. What is different about the Canadian edition? The English spelling?

    • The following piyut is included in the Canadian edition:

      O Canada!
      Our home and native land!
      True patriot love in all thy sons command.
      With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
      The True North strong and free!
      From far and wide,
      O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
      God keep our land glorious and free!
      O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
      O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

      Has there ever been a national anthem with as many exclamation points?

  3. What’s interesting is how consciously they seem to be positioning themselves to overtake ArtScroll.

    I don’t know what this means. Are you talking about US total book sales? The number of sales to synagogues? Are you talking about “mind-share”? Are you talking about how favored the prayers from each siddur are by the Heavenly Court?

    I have a lot of trouble comparing ArtScroll and Koren. One is a US publisher, one is an Israeli publisher. Both are reaching outside their home markets and into the Israeli and English-speaking markets respectively, but their home base remains. One publishes a full line of titles in English, including what is arguably the best edition of the Talmud available in English translation — the other publishes what is arguably the best edition of the Talmud available in modern Hebrew translation. I think the presence of both publishers invaluably enriches Jewish life.

    As a siddur, the ArtScroll should receive enormous kudos — even by Koren fans — for including so many “minority” piyutim. In contrast, I find the Koren much less flexible in adapting to the minhagim of individual congregations — and for that reason, I think it will be problematic to many congregations.

    • I don’t know what this means.

      I mean that ArtScroll is synonymous with Orthodox siddur in America right now. But I think that’s eroding. I also want to note that I’m only talking about siddurim, because that’s what I know about.

      I think the presence of both publishers invaluably enriches Jewish life.

      Agreed, though I strongly dislike ArtScroll siddurim for their atrocious layout and didactic tone.

      I’ve heard it said before that AS is better for some congregations that have a more eccentric minhag. I don’t know much about this, so I’ll take your word for it. It’s interesting that AS is more flexible in terms of minhag, while it’s thinking is so hugely inflexible.

  4. I think you are confusing nusach terminology.

    Currently in the USA Koren has just nusach Ashkenaz. In Israel, Koren has Ashkenaz, Sepharad and Sepharadi (which is another name for Edot Mizrach) and Moroccan.

    Artscroll has only Ashkenaz and Sepharad.

    Sepharad is still for Ashkenazim but is, if you like, the chassidishe nusach. Funnily enough in Israel most Ashkenazim daven nusach Sepharad.

    Jews from Iraq etc daven Sepharadi. This nusach is often called Edot Mizrach which is a somewhat derogatory term so we try and use the more correct “Sepharadi”, but this is often confusing for Ashkenazim who are not familiar.

    Moroccan is an offshoot of Sepharadi.

    Koren is currently working on the Nusach Sepharad range for the USA and of course the Koren Soloveitchik Siddur (nusach Ashkenaz) which hasn’t been delayed but rather excited individuals have promised it earlier than it’s timetable :-)

    There are quite a few more very exciting projects from Koren that are going to hit the shelves in the USA so you are invited to go to http://www.korenpub.com and join the mailing list to be the first to find out.

    • Thanks, Raphael. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about non-Ashkenazi nuschot.

      I did know that Sepharad was an Ashkenazi nusach, but I thought Sephardi and Edot Mizrach were different things.

      But, good. When is the Sepharad line going to available?

      • I did know that Sepharad was an Ashkenazi nusach, but I thought Sephardi and Edot Mizrach were different things.

        Your confusion is quite understandable. “Sepharadi” is sometimes used to refer to the Spanish-Portuguese nusach exclusively, contrasting to “Edot Hamizrach,” referring to the Iraqi nusach. As with Ashkenazi, not all Sephardic nusach is the same.

        • That’s what I thought before Raphael’s comment!

          So would it be correct to call Edot haMizrach the Iraqi rite?

          And would it be correct to call Edot haMizrach a subset of the Sephardi nusach?

          And would it be correct to call Sephard a subset of the Ashkenazi nusach?

          • So would it be correct to call Edot haMizrach the Iraqi rite?

            Depends on who’s defining the terms :-)

            And would it be correct to call Edot haMizrach a subset of the Sephardi nusach?

            Depends on who’s defining the terms

            And would it be correct to call Sephard a subset of the Ashkenazi nusach?

            Historically, yes. In content, nusach sephard is “remix” of Ashkenazic and Sephardic elements.

  5. Pingback: News & Links | Hirhurim – Musings

  6. The OU and ArtScroll never had a contract. It is the RCA and ArtScroll. I know, I know, the OU and RCA are affiliates (OU=lay leadership though run by Rabbis and the RCA is the Rabbinical arm) and they go together like gefilte fish and horseradish, but in the siddur business, they are separate. In fact, ArtScroll and RCA worked on a new siddur that is very different from the Koren in that it brings commentaries from many modern sources. It does try to address modern orthodox needs as well, though how well is not clear. The Koren also changes the standard American Ashkenazi nusach in subtle ways that can be disconcerting for those used to the Art Scroll or Birnbaum versions. The new RCA/ArtScroll should be out soon according to my sources.

    • It is the RCA and ArtScroll. I know, I know, the OU and RCA are affiliates (OU=lay leadership though run by Rabbis and the RCA is the Rabbinical arm) and they go together like gefilte fish and horseradish, but in the siddur business, they are separate.

      Ah, good to correct me on the front. As Larry is fond of reminding me, I also often conflate different Reform bodies (URJ is to OU and CCAR is to RCA, so this makes sense).

      ArtScroll and RCA worked on a new siddur that is very different from the Koren in that it brings commentaries from many modern sources.

      Oh?! I have not heard about this. Any links to share on this, Michael?

      The Koren also changes the standard American Ashkenazi nusach in subtle ways

      Are you referring to stuff like the different order of some morning blessings? I have wondered where Koren’s order for that section originates. Anyone know?

  7. I’m glad to hear that the Koren Siddur will be made available in nusach sphard. I was thinking that the Koren folks thought that us nusach sphard daveners enjoyed reading tefilot that were all mashed together with all different size fonts!

  8. And when can we expect Koren on the cob?

  9. The term “edot mizrach” is not a very complimentary term and this is why most sepharadi siddurim write “sepharadi” on the spine. There is historical debate as to how nusach sepharad developed which is beyond the scope of this forum.

    As far as dates are concerned, all I can say is that we have a team working full-time on it.

    In terms of the order of the morning blessings. Again a forum is hard to fully express things, but in short, the order reflects modern-day practice of how shuls daven ie the chazan starting at brachot and the congregants saying the brachot too as opposed to what used to happen 300 years ago when the nusach was set down.

    So for example when putting on tefillin you say 2 tractates from Torah. You can’t learn Torah without first saying a Bracha. Say you have to say Birkot Hatorah first. The practice originally was that you would rely on the chain davening and you did everything knowing the chain would make the Bracha retroactively for you. Since this is no longer the practice most siddurim have changed the order to be in line with the Halacha.

    • The term “edot mizrach” is not a very complimentary term and this is why most sepharadi siddurim write “sepharadi” on the spine.

      So how does one distinguish between a Sephardi siddur like De Sola Pool and a siddur that is in the specific Edot haMizrach style?

  10. I thought De Sola Pool was Spanish and Porteguese and not Sepharadi. I could be wrong here.

  11. The usual way to introduce a distinctively Sephardic siddur is to say “Lefi minhag haSefaradim uVnei `Edot haMizrah”. A Nusach Sefard siddur would say just that.

    I myself am looking forward to seeing their Moroccan siddur, being emotionally close to a Moroccan synagogue myself.

  12. No, a Nusach Sepharad siddur would NOT say that it is a Sepharadi siddur. Nusach Sepharad is NOT Sepharadi or Edot Mizrach. Ashkenazim daven Sepharad NOT Sepharadim. Sepharadim daven Sepharadi NOT Sepharad. Confused? Me too!

  13. Nusach Ari means, in a general sense, any prayer rite following the usages of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the AriZal, in the 16th century, and, more particularly, the version of it used by Chabad Hasidim.

    Courtesy of Wikipedia.

  14. Pingback: 2010 in review | The Reform Shuckle

  15. Pingback: Limmud NY Notes: Yes, I went to a Renewal service. And yes, I liked it. | The Reform Shuckle

  16. Pingback: Limmud NY Notes: Yes, I went to a Renewal service. And yes, I liked it. | Jewschool

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s