Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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26
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
the doorposts of your house and upon your gates” to Lazarus’s
sunset gates and golden door may be as gigantic as the old Co­
lossus; .nevertheless, the similarity in imagery invites a brazen
interpretation.
Like the
mezuzah,
Emma Lazarus’s words are affixed to the
Statue which welcomes strangers to a new world at the begin­
ning of a new century. The distance between the crossing of
the Atlantic and the Red Sea is bridged by the similarity of
experience and the biblical echoes in the Mother of Exiles whose
tablets in her left hand invoke the Tablets of the Law at Sinai.
The democratic threshold at Ellis Island with its sunset gates
and golden door creates the atmosphere for communitas where­
by European outcasts begin their integration into America. Ma­
ternal limbs (derived from the same root as liminal) carrying
torch and tablets level the old order of European persecution.
A .M . KLE IN
Emma Lazarus’s sonnet represents one form of the indirect,
figurative mezuzah. A.M. Klein, who was influenced by both
Lazarus and Karl Shapiro, reverses this transitional phase from
immigration to a kind of emigration from Montreal’s ghetto
that marks the difference between American absorption and
a more conservative Canadian adjustment. Instead of an
American-Jewish beacon-hand, the French Catholic crucifix
atop Mount Royal reminded the newly arrived Montrealer of
the ways of the Old World so recently left behind. The opening
stanzas of Klein’s “Autobiographical” suggest the
mezuzah
and
initiate the poet’s coming of age.
Out of the ghetto streets where a Jewboy
Dreamed pavement into pleasant Bible-land,
Out of the Yiddish slums where childhood met
The friendly beard, the loutish Sabbath-goy,
Or followed, proud, the Torah-escorting band,
Out of the jargoning city I regret,
Rise memories.
The triple repetition, “Out of,” combines the space of ghetto
streets, the time of memories rising, and the transformation
of streets into pleasant Bible-land. All three senses of the phrase
belong to a transitional stage of crossing thresholds of childhood