Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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MORDELL----100TH BIRTHDAY OF EMMA LAZARUS
81
Jews suffer blame. The stain to the family has long been wiped
out by Albert’s son, Benjamin N. Cardozo, who redeemed the
name by his services on the United States Supreme Court.
To the American people Emma Lazarus is chiefly known by
her sonnet “The New Colossus” inscribed on a tablet affixed since
1903 to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. In 1883 the
Ex-Secretary of State, William M. Evarts, who had publicly de-
nounced the Russian pogroms, asked Miss Lazarus to donate a
poem to the Art Loan Collection of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund.
She at first refused, saying she could not write to order, but she
finally assented. Her emotions bubbled over with joy that Jews
had found a refuge in America and the verses streamed forth almost
unconsciously. She made the statue a symbol of welcome to all
the huddled masses yearning for freedom, to all the homeless and
“ tempest-tossed.”
Even before personal acquaintance with the Russian immigrants,
Miss Lazarus had found material for poetry in her own people’s
history. She had been spurred on to work of this nature by non-
Jewish admiring critics like John Burroughs, and, especially,
Edmund Clarence Stedman. In fact, the drama,
The Dance to
Death
, was said to have been due to his insistent prodding. Pleased
with its publication, he called it a “work of power” in his
Poets
of America,
1885, adding that she was on her own ground in render-
ing the Hebrew poets of Old Spain.
A visit to Ward’s Island in August 1881 where she listened to
recitals of their sufferings by immigrants, stirred Emma Lazarus
to unusual depths. But she soon was engaged in a controversy
on the subject of persecution. In the April 1882 issue of the
Century Magazine
where she herself had a short article entitled
“Was the Earl of Beaconsfield a Representative Jew?”, which she
answered in the affirmative (wrongly, because she made Disraeli
an incarnation of Jewish faults and virtues), also appeared a
sixteen page article headed “Russian Jews and Gentiles. From a
Russian Point of View.” In the back pages it was announced that
the article was by a Madame Ragozin, though it was not stated
why so inconsequential a person should have been chosen to
write it, and a reply was promised for the next issue. As the May
1882 issue contained an article by Miss Lazarus, “Russian Chris-
tianity and Modern Judaism,” it is apparent she had been given
the assignment in advance. Madame Ragozin had based her views
on
The Book of the Kahal
written by a convert to Christianity,
the notorious Jacob Brafman of Minsk. With logic and passion
Miss Lazarus demolished the entire structure upon which the
Russian authoress had based her arguments.