July 22, 1849|
New York City, New York
|Died||November 19, 1887
New York City, New York
Emma Lazarus (July 22, 1849 – November 19, 1887) was a Jewish poet born in New York City.
Lazarus was the fourth of seven children of Moses Lazarus and Esther Nathan, Sephardic Jews whose families, originally from Portugal, had been settled in New York since the colonial period. She was related through her mother to Benjamin N. Cardozo, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
From an early age, she studied American and British literature, as well as several languages, including German, French, and Italian. Her writings attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He corresponded with her until his death.
Lazarus wrote her own important poems and edited many adaptations of German poems, notably those of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine. She also wrote a novel and two plays in five acts 'Spagoletto' and 'The Dance of Death'.
Lazarus began to be more interested in her Jewish ancestry after reading the George Eliot novel Daniel Deronda, and as she heard of the Russian pogroms that followed the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. As a result of this anti-Semitic violence, thousands of destitute Ashkenazi Jews emigrated from the Russian Pale of Settlement to New York, leading Lazarus to write articles on the subject as well as the poem for which she was most famous in her lifetime, "Song of a Semite" (1882). Lazarus began at this point to advocate on behalf of indigent Jewish refugees and helped establish the Hebrew Technical Institute in New York to provide vocational training to help destitute Jewish immigrants become self-supporting.
She is best known for "The New Colossus", a sonnet written in 1883; its lines appear on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty placed in 1903. The sonnet was written for and donated to an auction, conducted by the "Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty" to raise funds to build the pedestal. Lazarus' close friend Rose Hawthorne Lathrop was inspired by "The New Colossus" to found the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne. Lazarus is also known for her sixteen part cycle poem 'Epochs' .
She traveled twice to Europe, first in 1883 and again from 1885 to 1887. She returned to New York City seriously ill after her second trip and died two months later on November 19, 1887, most likely from Hodgkin's lymphoma.
She is an important forerunner of the Zionist movement. She argued for the creation of a Jewish homeland thirteen years before Theodor Herzl began to use the term Zionism. Lazarus is buried in Beth-Olom Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Emma Lazarus was honored by the Office of the Manhattan Borough President in March 2008 and her home on West 10th Street was included in a map of Women's Rights Historic Sites. The Museum of Jewish Heritage featured an exhibition about Emma Lazarus in 2012.
- Lazarus, Emma (1888). The Poems of Emma Lazarus. Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport
Further reading 
- Cavitch, Max. "Emma Lazarus and the Golem of Liberty," American Literary History 18.1 (2006), 1-28
- Eiselein, Gregory. Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems and Other Writings. USA: Broadview Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55111-285-X.
- Jacob, H. E. The World of Emma Lazarus. New York: Schocken, 1949; New York: Kessing Publishers, 2007, ISBN 1-4325-1416-4.
- Lazarus, Emma. Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems. USA: Library of America, 2005. ISBN 1-931082-77-4.
- Moore, H. S. Liberty's Poet: Emma Lazarus. USA: TurnKey Press, 2004. ISBN 0-9754803-4-0.
- Schor, Esther. Emma Lazurus. New York: Schocken, 2006. ISBN 0-8052-4216-3. Randomhouse.com
- Young, B. R. Emma Lazarus in Her World: Life and Letters. USA: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1997. ISBN 0-8276-0618-4.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Watts, Emily Stipes. The Poetry of American Women from 1632 to 1945. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977: 123. ISBN 0-292-76450-2
- Young, Bette Roth (1997). Emma Lazarus in Her World: Life and Letters. The Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 0-8276-0618-4. p. 3:
- "Jewish Women's Archive: Emma Lazarus". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- The Poems of Emma Lazarus in Two Volumes, kindle ebooks ASIN B0082RVVJ2 & ASIN B0082RDHSA
- Young, Bette Roth (1997). Emma Lazarus in Her World: Life and Letters. The Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 0-8276-0618-4. p. 3: Auction event named as " Lowell says poem gave the statue "a raison e'tre;" fell into obscurity; not mentioned at statue opening; Georgina Schuyler's campaign for the plaque
- Felder, Deborah G.; Diana L Rosen (2003). Fifty Jewish Women Who Changed the World. Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-2443-X. p. 45: Solicited by "William Maxwell Evert" [sic; presumably William Maxwell Evarts] Lazarus refused initially; convinced by Constance Cary Harrison
- "Exhibit highlights connection between Jewish poet, Catholic nun". The Tidings (Archdiocese of Los Angeles). Catholic News Service. 17 September 2010. p. 16. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
- Obituary in Century Magazine The Poems of Emma Lazarus in Two Volumes, kindle ebooks ASIN B0082RVVJ2 & ASIN B0082RDHSA
- Esther Schor, Emma Lazarus (2006)
- Yearning for Zion by Briana Simon (WZO Hagshama)
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- Jewish Virtual Library: Emma Lazarus
- Jewish Women's Archive: HISTORY MAKERS: Emma Lazarus, 1849 – 1887
- National Public Radio: Emma Lazarus, Poet of the Huddled Masses
- Works by Emma Lazarus at Project Gutenberg
- Jewish-American Hall of Fame: Virtual Tour: Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)
- Dr. David P. Stern: Welcome to my World: Emma Lazarus
- Emma Lazarus Memorial Near the Statue of Liberty