I’ll admit it. I sometimes choose to read a book based on its cover. I know. I know. I’m breaking a cardinal rule of…well…of life, one that we’ve all been taught, at least as a metaphor, since pre-school.

Whether the rest of us admit it or not, covers draw our attentions and create the initial impressions we have with books. Which is why I’ve long bemoaned the state of book covers in the Orthodox publishing world. There had always been exceptions, but in general the covers were boring and cookie-cutter.

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In the last five to 10 years, though, Jewish book covers have gained some vitality and personality. On this page are a few of the new titles whose covers have won my attention and my praise.

 

 

Mechakah L’Teshuva (Waiting for an Answer) (Hebrew, Maggid Books)

The central theme of the book is about preparing oneself for Yom Kippur and being open to changing the dynamics of the relationships in our lives. The author sees the book as being like an outstretched hand, reaching out to Hashem, and being open to wait for His answer.

It took many sketches until we came to the final version. At first we began with an image that looked like a written letter with a key to a heart-shaped locket, as if the letter was a guidebook written by Rabbanit Yemima. But then we started to explore with watercolors as an expression of the emotions that we feel on Yom Kippur.

Instead of a written letter, we went with an image that symbolizes a message: the dove. How fitting for Yom Kippur, a dove is the sign of peace and tranquility. It holds in its claws a note and the hand – feminine, yet strong – sends it away, yet awaits the answer throughout the rest of the year.

~ Eliyahu Misgav, designer

 

 

Perfect Flavors: Creative, Easy-to-Prepare Recipes Inspired by my Family and Travels (ArtScroll / Shaar Press)

The inspiration is pure siyata d’shmaya.

It’s a tedious process that includes painstaking search for appropriate images. The photos are then extensively edited. We then pick the correct color combinations for the background to best bring out these scenes. And in practice it’s all much more complex then all of the above.

What do I attempt to achieve? Why a beautiful and striking cover of course! One that would make people take notice in a book store and ask, “How did they do that?” and say, “I’ve just got to buy that one.”

~ Eli Kroen, designer

 

 

For Every Season: Illuminating Insights into the Jewish Holidays (Kodesh Press)

On the cover is an original painting I did in pastel. The basic theme of the painting is that the Jewish holidays would be represented by the 12 numbers of the clock, in the order in which they occur. So 12, for example, is Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur as symbolized with the shofar, 1 is a sukkah, 2 is Simchas Torah, 3 is Chanukah, etc.

In addition, I divided the background on the clock into four quadrants that depict the four seasons and correspond to when each of the holidays occurs, approximately. For example, number 5 is Purim, which occurs during the end of the winter season.

~ Yisroel Juskowitz, the author and illustrator

 

 

Was Yosef on the Spectrum? Understanding Joseph Through Torah, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources (Urim Publications)

Autism is a condition that causes a person to see and relate to the world differently. With this cover, I tried to capture the idea that Yosef was a bright and colorful figure in a world that may or may not have completely understood him. The old lithograph style cover illustration underscores the point.

~ Shanie Cooper (of Virtual Paintbrush Book Cover Design Studio), the designer

 

 

HaNeshama (The Soul) (Hebrew, Maggid Books)

The concept with this cover is that the eyes are the window into the inner soul. The eyes are the intermediary between a person’s innermost thoughts and feelings and the outside world. You can tell a lot about a person from their eyes. It’s very apropos to Rabbi Steinsaltz’s writings in The Soul / HaNeshama.

This particular cover uses the Gestalt Theory in which the visual perception is based on the relationship between seeing a portion of an object, not the whole.

I isolated the extraneous parts of the face to focus on the eyes. The graphic language I used on the back cover – where you see the Torah text in the eyeglasses – connects to the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, who talks about understanding God’s will through the Hebrew letters. How do we know what Hashem wants from us? Through the Torah – it is the blueprint for life, for humanity.

~ Eliyahu Misgav, designer

 

 

Dirty Jewess: A Woman’s Courageous Journey to Religious and Political Freedom (Urim Publications)

This drawing, a Holocaust-era drawing by Lajos Feld, appealed to the author (Sylvia Fishbaum) and she asked us to use it on the cover. I liked it because I felt it captured the feeling of innocence that was lost through the course of the author’s experience with anti-Semitism. The strong text on the bottom is meant to underscore her triumph over the evils she experienced.

~ Shanie Cooper (of Virtual Paintbrush Book Cover Design Studio), the designer

 

 

 

Jews in Medicine: Jewish Physicians and their Contributions to Health and Medical Advances

Jews in Medicine: Jewish Physicians and their Contributions to Health and Medical Advances (Urim Publications) 

This cover needed a historical and intellectual appeal, while still being interesting and conveying the fact that it was about medicine. I tried to capture that through the use of the old map with the caduceus, which is the symbol most recognized as medical, and a muted color scheme and Roman style font to underscore the historical aspect.

~ Shanie Cooper (of Virtual Paintbrush Book Cover Design Studio), the designer

 

 

 

Walking the Exodus: My Journey in the Footsteps of Moses (Urim Publications)

The cover image is one of the author actually “walking the Exodus.” What could be more appropriate for this cover? The map overlay shows the Sinai Desert, with Israel in the corner, which serves both as a visual cue that this book is about travel, and as another nod to the book’s content.

~ Shanie Cooper (of Virtual Paintbrush Book Cover Design Studio), the designer

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