This year’s Jewish American Heritage Month celebrates “Jews in Entertainment.” It causes pause to think of the talent that immigrant Jewish people brought to America. Jewish speakers, musicians, artists and authors have contributed much and the list of Jewish actors on Broadway and in Hollywood is staggering. From television networks and movie producers to playwrights, actors and directors, the Jewish have impacted the nation’s culture in immeasurable ways.
One inspiring person is American poet Emma Lazarus (1849 - 87) who became interested in her Jewish ancestry as she became more aware of anti-Semitic violence that resulted in the immigration of thousands of destitute Jews to New York. She began to write articles and her most famous poem, “Song of a Semite,” on the subject. She became an advocate for the immigrants and helped to establish the Hebrew Technical Institute in New York to provide job training for destitute Jews.
In 1883, Lazarus wrote, “The New Colossus,” a sonnet that spoke of the millions who immigrated to the United States. In 1903, several years after her death, her words were immortalized on a bronze plaque in the Statue of Liberty.
The poem speaks of the millions of immigrants who came to the United States. We share her noble thoughts here:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"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!"