Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vive La France

As we look out at our Lady in the Harbor surrounded by sun-dappled waters, we are reminded that she is a very generous gift from our friends the French, who celebrate Bastille Day today. Now, to be fair, if we are not looking at “Liberty Enlightening the World,” we are meeting about her or talking about her. A lot. Our upcoming exhibition about Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem that appears on Liberty’s pedestal, will incorporate the statue in some pretty spiffy ways. The exhibition happens to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the gift of the statue, which is Oct. 28.

Known for more than a century as the author of the lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . ,” the poet Emma Lazarus gave voice to the Statue of Liberty and generations of newcomers to America. However, few people know her fascinating story, her Sephardic background, her American roots, and her work for Jewish causes and a Jewish homeland. Visitors will discover how Emma Lazarus was inspired to craft an enduring message of exile, refuge, and the promise of America.

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