Sunday, November 04, 2007

Emma Lazarus

R. Yitzchok Adlerstein quotes a letter to the NY Times by R. Chaim Malinowitz of Ramat Beit Shemesh in which R. Malinowitz quotes Emma Lazarus' famous poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty (link). This might be obvious to many but I only recently learned, while reading Jonathan Sarna's American Judaism, that Emma Lazarus was Jewish (link):

Born in New York to an aristocratic Jewish family of mixed Sephardic and Ashkenazic heritage, she had emerged at a young age as a sensitive poet (her first book was published when she was seventeen) but had never maintained close ties to the Jewish community; only a very small percentage of her early works bore on Jewish themes at all. Antisemitism and the first wave of East European Jewish immigration shocked Lazarus. In 1882, in a burst of creative energy, she emerged as a staunch defender of Jewish rights, the poet laureate of the Jewish awakening, and the foremost proponent of the "national-Jewish movement" aimed at "the establishment of a free Jewish state."

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