The Magazine

A Jewish Heroine

There's more to Emma Lazarus than the Statue of Liberty.

Nov 20, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 10 • By ABBY WISSE SCHACHTER
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Lazarus also endorsed the idea of a nationalist solution to the Jewish problem: a Jewish state. As an early advocate of what would become Zionism, she was ahead of most American Jews, and was criticized for it. She began a weekly column in the American Hebrew that took up her new "dogma," the need for a new Jewish state in Palestine. As Schor explains, neither her fellow Jews nor a wider Christian audience were receptive to the idea.

But she wasn't all polemics. Lazarus also had a terrific sense of humor, as illustrated by a comment written from London, to a friend regarding her still being single at the advanced age of 33. "I am bitterly disappointed," she wrote, "in not seeing the slightest prospect of marrying Sir Moses Montefiore--as I had hoped. He is approaching his 99th birthday & has not made any advances to me & I fear there is no time to be lost."

This volume is part of a series called "Jewish Encounters," and that's just what it is. It's an encounter with a passionate, stubborn, jocular Jewish American heroine. Schor wants us to "get to know" Emma Lazarus, and with this volume, we can and we should.

Abby Wisse Schachter is an editor at the New York Post.