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Huddled Masses

As the Statue of Liberty turns 125, talking to statue-bound tourists about Emma Lazarus, the poet whose sonnet is inscribed in its base

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Visitors on their way to the Statue of Liberty. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Every day, people gather in lower Manhattan to pay tribute to an American icon. They are waiting, often for hours, for the ferry that will take them to the Statue of Liberty. While most visitors to the statue are familiar with the rousing poem displayed inside its base—“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,” and so on—very few can name the poet who wrote it, Emma Lazarus. Even fewer know that Lazarus was a Sephardic Jew and a scholar, playwright, and novelist.

The statue was dedicated 125 years ago this month. To mark the anniversary, Nextbook Press has produced an interactive version of the Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus,” annotated by the Princeton English professor Esther Schor, who wrote the biography Emma Lazarus for the Nextbook Press Jewish Encounters series. In 2006, Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry went to the Statue of Liberty ferry terminal to talk to visitors about Lazarus and solicit from them a group reading of her poem. Here’s a reprise of that installment. [Running time: 4:38.] 

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Charlie in NY says:

For those interested in learning even more, beginning October 26, the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan will have a special exhibit on Emma Lazarus.

Bruce F says:

THANX! 2 ALL,NICE 2 MY EYES and HEARS 2 !!! bf 5

stan chz says:

It is a fitting tribute, on Lady Liberty’s 125th Anniversary, to have the hardy participants of Occupy Wall Street “standing watch” a few miles north, across the harbor. If Lady Liberty could talk, I’m sure she’d tell them: Thank You..for keeping the torch of liberty burning brightly; Thank you..for helping to renew the freedoms and ideals upon which this great country was founded. She’d be proud!

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Huddled Masses

As the Statue of Liberty turns 125, talking to statue-bound tourists about Emma Lazarus, the poet whose sonnet is inscribed in its base

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