Page 96 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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equality existed in America, she observed that ostracism and
discrimination prevailed. She however did not urge American
Jews to emigrate to Palestine; she rather sought that country for
the numerous European exiles who wanted to go there. She penned
an article for the
Century Magazine
of February 1885, called
“The Jewish Problem” in which she maintained that the Jews were
driven into this position by intolerance and ignorance and were
forced to enter upon a vigorous and concerted action of defense.
I t is remarkable that she should have been fermenting with
ideas from the contemporary writings of Perez Smolenskin with
whose works she was not familiar. In her “New Ezekiel” printed
in the
American Hebrew
for January 19, 1883, and subsequently
included among her
, she wrote:
The Spirit is not dead, proclaim the word,
Where lay dead bones, a host of armed men stand!
I open your graves, my people, saith the Lord,
And I shall place you living in your land.
Her Zionism became militant and she was fascinated by the figure
of Bar Kokhba. On November 12, 1884, before the Philadelphia
Y. M. H. A., Emma Lazarus read a paper “The Last National
Revolt of the Jews.” In it, this Jewish liberator was portrayed
as a hero and even compared to Washington. I t was printed
in the
American Hebrew
for November 14, 21 and 28, 1884.
A poem on Bar Kokhba apparently written about this time or
shortly before is to be found in her collected poems. Historians
have not all been in accord with her in her estimate of the well-
intentioned patriot who was the cause of one of the greatest
disasters in Jewish history. Her final efforts in behalf of the Jewish
cause was “By the Waters of Babylon,” a series of seven “Little
Poems in Prose” contributed to the
Century Magazine
of March
1887. In one section she listed the great Jewish names from
Maimonides to Montefiore and then called on the American Jew
to welcome the despised Russian Jew as a brother. One does not
however escape the feeling that there was at times an air of
patronage and condescension in Emma Lazarus as among many
others toward the immigrants whom she described as “haunted
by the bat-like phantoms of superstition.”
l a z a r u s
j u d g m e n t
q u e s t i o n e d
Emma Lazarus of course was not always right in her judgment
in matters relating to the Jews. In an essay “M. Renan on the
Jews,” which won a prize from the Philadelphia Y. M. H. A.,
and was printed in the
American Hebrew
October 24, 1884, she
showed herself ready to abandon all the national and traditional