Emma Lazarus: Sephardic Woman of Letters (Paperback)
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As the first Jewish woman and Sephardic poet of importance in the United States, Emma Lazarus, struggled with recognition and acceptance among her peers during her lifetime, but more than a century later, her reputation overshadows them. In her lifetime her poem, "The New Colossus" had not yet become famous as it is today. Those words are now among the most widely quoted lines of poetry in America.
Her Sephardic, or Spanish-Jewish background, is not often recognized although from the 1650s to the 1850s most Jews in the United States were Sephardic, and her family was among the early immigrants. As she developed as a writer and intellectual, she increasingly celebrated her Jewish and Sephardic roots, and she became the outstanding American Jewish poet that we recognize her as being today.
The New Colossus
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp " cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door "
About the Author
Gregory Eiselein is a professor of English at Kansas State University. He is the author of Literature and Humanitarian Reform in the Civil War Era (1996) and the editor of Infelicia and Other Writings, by Adah Isaacs Menken (Broadview Press, 2002).