My grand-mother, Sarah Maximovsky, known as Sonya, received her identification card upon arrival to Israel in 1990. Due to a mistake in the registers of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the space for “nationality” was printed with the words “not registered”. Henceforth, Sarah, a surgeon who choose not changing her name during the “Doctors plot” in the end of Stalin’s era in Leningrad, has become an unidentifiable agent in terms of national belonging.
I received my ID in 1993, reaching the age of sixteen. Due to a mistake in the registers of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the year of my birth was printed as 00. Henceforth a doubt is imposed on my being in the world.
In 1997 I wanted to marry. The rabbinic council asked to verify my Jewish decent. I showed my ID, which stated in the space of nationality: Jewish. Not convinced, they demanded to speak with my grand-mother. They called her and asked in Russian: “Is your name Sarah?” “Yes”, - she replied. “Have you always been Sarah or have you just become Sarah?” Sarah, who due to her age had hearing deficiency and was anxious for not answering adequately, replied: “What? Ahhh… Yes, I have always been Sarah.” They then asked her to speak Yiddish, and she spoke as good as she could remember. Thereupon it was decided that I am Jewish.
In German lands of Ashkenaz there used to be a tradition: after the circumcision, the mother of the newborn took his swaddling band and embroidered it with his name, birth date and a blessing, adding decorations according to her taste and ability. The band has been donated to the local synagogue to be used as a Torah scroll binder. In this way the birthday of a male child has been documented and the covenant between the almighty and the people of Israel, commemorated in a mundane cloth, regenerated in the familial memory.
Never a girl in Ashkenaz has received a binder.
This binder is meant for my grand-mother and myself. It is made of my old swaddling cloths, salvaged from becoming dust-cloths. I embroider stories of my grand-mothers' name and my year of birth. In its design the binder is reminiscent of an existing German binder of 1836, held in the collection of The Museum of the German-Speaking Jewry in Tefen, Israel. Every letter is conceived of the whole inscription repeated several times. The tiny letter becomes a building block for the big one. In needle and thread I learn to write anew; each letter upon its shape come as if unfamiliar. The story unrolls as a metaphoric patchwork where each piece is unlike any other, integrating tearing apart and sewing together.