Jane Davis: Poet Emma Lazarus embodied Jewish values

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Jane Davis: Poet Emma Lazarus embodied Jewish values

Source: Huntsville Times, 11-18-11

Emma Lazarus: Nov. 14, 2011 Emma Lazarus: Nov. 14, 2011

Jane Davis, a professor of history and religion, invites visitors to the exhibit about poet Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty. at Athens-Limestone Public Library through Dec. 16, 2011. (The Huntsville Times/Kay Campbell) Watch video

Emma Lazarus, the poet and essayist who wrote the famous “Give me your tired, your poor” lines now enshrined in the base of the Statue of Liberty, came from one of the founding families of the United States.
But during the frenzied years around the Civil War, she found herself, because her family was Jewish, cast as an outsider as virulent anti-Semitism began to rise in the U.S.

Lazarus’ own paradoxical insider-outsider status as well as Judaism’s emphasis on the importance of caring for the community created in the mostly secular poet a deep sympathy for the immigrants crowding into her native New York City during the post-war period, says Jane Davis, who has taught history and religion at Calhoun State Community College.

A display of banners giving an overview of the life and times of Lazarus, who died in 1887 at the age of 37, is on view at the Athens-Limestone Public Library, 405 E. South St. in Athens, through Dec. 16.

“She is the one who changed the entire meaning of the Statue of Liberty,” Davis said as she walked through the panels this week. “Her poem refigured it as a beacon of hope to immigrants, not the message of release from monarchy that Bertholdi and the other French creators intended.”…READ MORE

The complete sonnet, “The New Colossus,” posted on the Liberty State Park’s website.

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