WORMS/VERMAYZA*, circa 1978 by Julia Knobloch

It was autumn, late autumn,
maybe the first week of November,
and we went for a walk,
the family on a Sunday walk,
through the historic quarter
along the city walls
over cobblestones
past a cemetery.

It was the old Jewish quarter of
a town that once was home
to a famous Torah scholar, where
he built his house of study.
It is now a house of memory.

But I had never heard of Rashi then;
nor had I heard of heinous perfidy and shame.
I was five.

I asked, why is this called the Jewish quarter,
when all the Jews are gone?
Who were they? Where are they now?

Well, I had heard about them, briefly:
The people who had no country,
so they took their names from nature,
my grandmother said, denying parts
of her own family a rightful place in history.

Back then, I didn’t know this, either.

Who were the Jews? Where are they now?
I insisted. I was five.

It was late autumn,
around the first week of November.
It was cold, the streets were empty, and
my father and my mother remained silent.
*German and Yiddish names of a city in Germany

Julia Knobloch is a journalist and translator turned project manager and executive assistant. Before moving to New York from Berlin, she worked 10+ years as a writer and producer for TV documentaries and radio features. Her essays and reportage have been published in print and online publications in Germany, Argentina, and the US (openDemocracy, Brooklyn Rail, Reality Sandwich), and she occasionally blogs for ReformJudaism.org. An emerging poet, she recently was awarded the Poem of the Year prize from Brooklyn Poets for her poem Daylight Saving Time.


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