Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day, Immigration Reform and Emma Lazerus

In honor of Memorial Day and keeping in mind the current debate over immigration reform, i reprint here the famous poem, “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus. Her poem, engraved on a tablet within the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands (, reminds American Jews (and most Americans) that we are all the children of refugees. Many of our ancestors had no choice but to seek our these shores. Others were turned away, with tragic consequences. Emma herself was not an immigrant ( and she struggled openly with her Jewish identity while fighting the anti-Semitism of the time. The entry about her in the Jewish Virtual Library concludes, regarding “The New Colossus,” “Her best-known contribution to mainstream American literature and culture, the poem has contributed to the belief that America means opportunity and freedom for Jews, as well as for other "huddled masses." Through this celebration of the "other," Lazarus conveyed her deepest loyalty to the best of both America and Judaism.”

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