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Jewish Communities Throughout U.S. Observe Centenary of Birth of Emma Lazarus Today

Jewish communities throughout the United States will observe tomorrow the centenary anniversary of the birth of Emma Lazarus, noted Jewish poetess whose classic poem, “The New Colossus,” is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

Born in New York City of Sephardic parents, Miss Lazarus in her youth showed little interest in Jewish affairs. Her poetic genius attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Cullen Bryant and other literary giants of the period. Reports of Czarist pogroms in Russia, as well as visits to Ward’s Island where hundreds of Jewish victims of the pogroms were compelled to remain prior to their admission to the United States, served to foster in her a deep and abounding devotion to the Jewish people.

Incensed by a magazine article justifying the Czarist pogroms on the Jews, Miss Lazarus wrote a scathing rebuttal entitled, “Russian Christianity versus Modern Judaism.” Shortly thereafter she undertook the study of Hebrew and translated the works of medieval Spanish Jewish posts. She advocated industrial training for Jews and helped found the Hebrew Technical Institute of this city. She died at the age of 38 in New York.