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April 09, 1971 - Image 60

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1971-04-09

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Dramatic Story of Emilia Lazarus and "New Colossus

60--Friday, April 9, 1971

Centenary of Liberty Bard's Poetic Debut


Copyright, 1971, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Emma Lazarus is a name indelibly recorded in American-Jewish
history. "The New Colossus" which has given her world fame as a
champion of rights for homeless is engraved for all generations on the
Statue of Liberty on Bedloe Island in New York Harbor. The basic
facts are recorded and frequently repeated as a reminder of the
eminent poet's role as an interpreter of Jewish ideals.
She was born in New York City,
July 22, 1849, wrote her first poem
It was on Oct. 28, 1886, that
when she was 14, and in 1871 President Grover Cleveland for-
mally dedicated the Statue of Lib-

Emma Lazarus, one of the un-
forgotten geniuses of American
Jewry, was the daughter of Moses
and Esther Lazarus, Ortho:lox
Jews of aristocratic Portuguese
lineage. Raised in wealthy and
sheltered surroundings, she was
educated by private tutors and
spent her youth among the well-to-

her first book of verse came off
the press. This year, therefore,
marks the centenary of her emer-
gence as a poet of note whose
writings were commended by
Ralph. Waldo Emerson and other
noted American writers.

Fifteen years later she was to
become world famous for her poem
"The New Colossus" which was
engraved on the Statue of Liberty
to be read by millions to this day.

She reached the peak of her
greatness as the result of the
awakening within her of the He-
braic spirit. It was always latent
but was not brought to the surface
until she was shaken out of her
reticence and literary naivete by
the pogroms in Russia and Ro-
mania from 1879 to 1882. The
tragedy of these events stirred
her so deeply that she turned her
poetic genius to Cie defense of her

Fully a decade before Dr. Theo- .
dor Herzl convened the First
World Zionist Congress in Basle,
in 1897, Emma Lazarus' imagina-
tion was fired by the Palestine
idea and she wrote a series of
"Epistles to the Hebrews" in
which she outlined a. plan for the
repatriation of the Jews in their
ancient homeland.

Now this nation observes the
100th year of the appearance on
the American scene of the eminent
lady whose verses grace the plaque
of the imperishable statue that was
the creation of Frederic August
In prose and in verse she
Bartholdi and was the gift of pleaded for justice to the Jew.
France to the United States.
The vigor of her writings and the
This statue is 50 feet higher sincerity of her pleas gave notice
than the Colossus of Rhodes to that a giant advocate had arisen
which Emma Lazarus referred in to defend the rights of the Jews.
the first line of her famous poem: In poem after poem, she coun-

Not like the brazen giant of

Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride
from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed, sunset
gates shall stand,
A mighty woman, with a torch,
whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning,
and her name
Mother of Exiles .. .

seled a Zion rebuilt, depicted the
tragedy of a harassed Israel and
created word pictures which, for
prophetic and beautiful expres-
sion of the age-long • cry of the
Jews, have seldom been equalled.
The writing of "The New Colos-
sus" was a direct outgrowth of
Emma Lazarus' belated but pas-
sionate concern for the safety of
her fellow Jews. Despite her deli-
cate health, she spent many days
visiting the haggard and ragged
Jewish immigrants from Russia
and Romania who crowded the im-

When her poem "The New
Colossus" was chosen for the
Bartholdi monument, it was a
bright occasion for the noted poet
migration station on War Island
who died in her 38th year—Nov.
in 1331 and 1882.
19, 1887—only one year after the
poem was immortalized on the na- Those were the years when
tional monument, the Statue of Americans were asked to contri-
Liberty Enlightening the World. bute to the $300,000 fund to build

the pedestal on which the Statue
of Liberty was to stand. Money
was slow in coming. Many devices
were used to raise the fund.

Mrs. Harrison's request for a Emma Lazarus, Liberty's Bard,
poem. But• when. Mrs. Harrison should have be.ti•cUt short at the
2- -
reminded - Miss L Lazarus "of 'the.
GoddeSs standing on the pedestal age pf 38.
doWn yonder iaz the bay - and
The 'New - Colossus has only
holding-her torch to those RitS
sidn refugees of Yours: Whom you_ 14 lines,- but in them are expressed
are so fond of visiting, 7 the. Jew- with prop' etic instinct all of the
ish poet was galvanied into aC- indeStnictilik. - and noble ideals
tion. -`The New - .Co.lbsi4S" was §Ynibtifike4:17:by the Statue of Lib-
her - contribution— to Mrs:. Har-. erty. = These- lines, written by
riSon's 'souvenir book and it soon Emma Lazarus 85 -years ago, re-
became the Poem to be fastened - - main the credo of Americanism
_ to the- inside of the base of tke and a striking memorial to their
S tatue of Liberty.

Constance Gary Harrison was
one of the group of public spir-
ited women who arranged rum-
mage sales and sold souvenirs to
secure the necessary funds for
that purpose. She was- collecting
poems, drawings and stories for
publication in a souvenir book to
be sold for the benefit of the
author, now being honored on the
pedestal fund. Emma Lazarus
It is one - of the ironies of fate 100th anniversary of the publica-
was not keen to write for souve-
nir books and at first declined that the life of the brilliant Jewess tion of her first book.. •

The New Colossus


Not like the brazen giant of Greek .fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand,
A mighty woman, with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied .pomp!" cries the
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your. teeming shore—
Send them,. the homeless, tempest-
tossed, to me —
I lift my lamp beside the
golden door!"


Emma Lazarus,. Poet of Freedom

July 22, 1849 - Nov. 19, 1887

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