Lack eloquence Find your words of love in Jewish books

In a survey of romantic gift ideas focusing on Jewish books, Bay Area shop owners came up with a broad range of suggestions. All Jewish writing invites interpretation, they agreed, and if you consider your sweetheart's tastes and interests when selecting your gift of romance, it will say, "I know who you are, and I care about you."

Eileen Velen of L'Chaim! in Danville suggested Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text.

"The Tanakh has everything — sex, love and life, and the most beautiful poetry and most beautiful love stories. And there's space inside to record your family history, making the book a truly personal gift," Velen said.

Also in a spiritual vein, she recommended "The Gift of the Kabbalah: Discovering the Secrets of Heaven, Renewing Your Life on Earth" by Tamar Frankiel.

However, "if your heart is in your stomach," Velen recommend a cookbook as a romantic gift.

"There's so much love given in our cooking and in our celebrations," she said, noting that one of her favorite recipe books is "The Jewish Holiday Kitchen" by Joan Nathan.

In addition to books, Velen suggested a pair of toasting glasses or a picture frame with the couple's photograph as particularly romantic.

Nurit Sabadosh of Alef Bet Judaica in Los Gatos also sees romance in books that nurture the spirit.

"The Illustrated Torah," with paintings by Michal Meron including 13 pictures depicting holidays, is "a beautiful art book," Sabadosh said.

She also recommended "Listen to her Voice: Women of the Hebrew Bible" by Miki Raver, a book that includes famous paintings of women and that answers, "Who were they, and what role did they play?"

For non-literary gifts, Sabadosh mentioned jewelry, especially delicate beaded pins by Adaya Bar and pendants in silver or gold, and a pewter "puzzle statue" about 7 inches high comprising "two figures that fit together like a couple."

To Ellen Bob, nothing compares to The Song of Songs for romance. "The most beautiful piece of romantic poetry was written 2000 years ago," said Bob, the co-owner of bob and bob in Palo Alto.

With that in mind, she recommended "Hebrew Love Poems" by David C. Gross, an anthology of biblical through contemporary Israeli poets with art by Shraga Weil that includes images from The Song of Songs.

She also chose "The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems With a Jewish Theme" by Marge Piercy, a contemporary American writer.

And adding that a lot of people equate sex with romance, Bob said that "Neurotica: Jewish Writers on Sex" — including Erica Jong, Saul Bellow, Woody Allen and Roth, and edited by Melvin Jules Bukiet — is sexy and funny.

Besides the books, Bob said that a very romantic gift in her shop is a silver necklace that "makes a great secret gift" because it says ahava, which means love in Hebrew.

Owen Hill, book buyer for Moe's Books in Berkeley, picked Allen Ginsberg's "Selected Poems: 1947-1995." "If ever there's a romantic character, he's one. Plus it gets outside of heterosexuality," Hill said.

He also selected Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint" as sexy and hilarious and anything by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

"His whole body of work is romantic, in a more general way, because the writing is so beautiful," he said.

And at Berkeley's Afikomen, "The Song of Songs: A New Translation With an Introduction and Commentary" by Ariel Bloch and Chana Block "is the one we think is the nicest translation," said manager John Hessler.

He also picked "Hebrew Love Poems," because it's "a nice little paperback, and it's mostly modern Hebrew love poems from the turn of the 20th century to now."

Nancy Pechner of Silkheart in San Rafael creates custom hand-painted silk Judaica. Visualized and personalized by the client with Pechner's guidance, it can be the ultimate romantic gift. Among the personally conceived gifts she makes are wall hangings, banners and chuppot.

"People get empowered with usable art that they help design, incorporating their inspiration and their values and their passions," Pechner said.

Which sums up the consensus for giving a romantic gift to the love of your life: Whether you aim to nourish the soul, delight the senses, start a tradition or tickle the funny bone, choose your gift with care.