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Julia Knobloch

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Silver hand mirror reflecting a marbled bar of soap and a string of pearls

This poem plays with the concept of hester panim (the hidden face of God), which is related to the name Esther, who plays a central role in the upcoming holiday of Purim. It also alludes to this line in Exodus 33:20 and related lines in Exodus 34 in Ki Tisa, this week’s parashah (Torah portion): “But you cannot see My face, for a human being may not see Me and live.”

Hester Street

I long to see your face on Hester Street, I have walked the blocks for centuries.

The bride you left has grown into a widow. I walk unveiled, searching for...

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Yellow raise boots on a wet wooden surface covered in leaves

The air was humid and warm. It filled the sanctuary and narrow lanes outside, where children played, the Rhine nearby. A thousand years later children in yellow rubber boots run through brown and red leaves on holy sands in the valley of the rabbis. They know people died but nobody tells them about the worlds that were lost. 

Silhouette of a man sitting on rocks looking out at a starry night sky

Say it when the priests go eat the sacrifice. Say it when the stars appear. Say it until midnight. Say it before dawn. Say it in the morning light. Say it when you rise, when you lie down, in the desert, in walled cities, in your house and on the road.

Teach it to your children. teach it to your children, that they may say it, say it when they wake, when no stars are in the sky, when time has no season say it when the trains pull in, say it at the ramp, say it in the barracks.

Listen to the words of the Sh'ma, put one ear onto the tracks and listen, you can hear it through...

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Three ner tamid eternal flames made of glass and hanging against a black background

I found them in the middle of the day in France and Algiers, in my friend’s eyes, in Portugal, at a street corner in el Once, Buenos Aires, in a Tango parlor in Berlin, at Ben Gurion Airport Immigration, in talk shows on German television, in cracks of dawn over the Rhineland, in a night train to Chicago, in the parks and squares of Brooklyn.

Names I only knew from silent lists, carved in stone, displayed in museums, took shape, began to breathe, to teach, to walk, to talk, to laugh, to sing, became neighbors, lovers, friends, opened their arms and danced with me.Nu, what took you...

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Hands holding up speech bubble signs against a light pink background

I was born in Germany and didn’t grow up Jewish, but neither do I look particularly Teutonic or fall into any of the categories that might (wrongly) be labeled as “not-Jewish.” I don’t look “typically Jewish” either, but I pass. I don’t stand out… until I open my mouth.

“I hear an accent. Where are you from?”

“I live in Brooklyn.”

“No, where are you really from?”

“I grew up in Germany.”

“Oh, so then you weren’t born Jewish?”

Sometimes I wish I could just make small talk over Kiddush when I visit a new community. Around the time of my...

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