Below is an introduction to a handful of Israel's leading challah cover designers. We've listed them in order from the most traditional and progressing to more modern designs as we go down the list.
Many chassidic homes emphasize a very stately look for the home. Since Malchut Yerushalayim is under chassidic ownership, perhaps it comes as little surprise that their designs tend to be relatively formal looking, using classic designs. Just about all of their challah covers are made using high-quality velvet, either a very dark blue or white. They also tend to be quite large, which definitely impacts the pricing, since it entails more velvet and more embroidery work.
Most of their challah covers are comprised of very ornate frames, with the word "Shabbat" in the center or "Lechvod Shabbat v'Yom Tov." In recent years they have started employing a sort of quilt effect in their embroidery work, to fill in empty space, and often add Swarotzky stones and other embellishment elements, and motifs include the classic Vilna Gate design.
Another Jerusalem embroidery studio, located just a few blocks away from Malchut Yerushalayim, is Kaftor Vaferach Judaica. The manage to add a splash of color, while retaining a traditional look. Many of their designs feature Shabbat candles, challah and wine, surrounded by floral elements. Most of their challah covers are the regular rectangular shape, but a few are oval.
Ronit Gur was raised in a Yemenite family, so I would have expected her designs to be quite ornate, but in fact they tend to use a lot of empty space, creating understated elegance. Using rich, but muted hues, her designs have a subtly contemporary feel.
Located in Jerusalem's German Colony, Barbara Shaw's collect of challah covers is very colorful, with highly original designs including a floral pattern inspired by Ottoman-era tiles, paisley(!), Lion of Judah, Doves of Peace, bright pomegranates and even an Uzbekistan design from Bukhara or Samarkand.
Dorit Judaica, located in Petach Tikva, offers contemporary designs that demonstrate a marked ability to think out-of-the-box. Using washable satin-like fabrics, these prints have almost a playful appeal that reveals an artisan who seems to really enjoy her work.
Known for his liberal use of color, Yair Emanuel has created one of the largest selections of challah covers of any Judaica producer. Certain motifs crop up repeatedly in his designs: pomegranates, quaint Old City of Jerusalem scenes, wheat stalks, the Seven Species. Some are hand-embroidered, while others are machine-embroidered or printed.
For over 25 years Avi Luvaton has been superbly crafted Judaica pieces in a modern, elegant style that is continually evolving.
Avi Luvaton’s design and production studio is located in the artist colony of Hutzot Hayotzer in Jerusalem. His extraordinary works can be seen in museums and collectors' homes around the world, and on display at three Jerusalem galleries: in the David Citadel Hotel, the Mamilla Hotel and the Mamilla promenade mall.
His challah covers are remarkable for achieving a high level of elegance using just a single color, or two similar shades.