Behind the Exhibit: Emma Lazarus - Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience (Video + Event)

We all know Emma Lazarus for giving voice to the Statue of Liberty through her sonnet "The New Colossus" (Give me your tired, your poor). But as Esther Schor shows in her enthralling biography of Lazarus, she was a feminist, a Zionist and an internationally famous Jewish-American writer – before those categories even existed.

Born a fourth-generation Jewish-American in 1849 New York, Lazarus was a poet, immigration reformer, and Zionist far, far ahead of her time. After publishing her first poem at the age of 16, she embarked into a life of letters that straddled the line between art and activism. In addition to her poetry, she wrote provocative, pro-Semitic columns in the American Hebrew magazine, urging her fellow affluent New York Jews to accept and support the waves of Russian Jews arriving in New York in the late 1800s.

In her award-winning 2006 biography of Lazarus, Schor, an English professor at Princeton University, discusses the life and times of this brave, progressive woman -- a visionary whose beliefs and experiences can shine a torch on our own troubled times.

Watch the video below to learn more about Lazarus, and come check out the special exhibit, curated by Schor, Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience, on display at the Central Library (14 W. 10th St.) through October 17, 2011.

Event Alert: Schor is speaking at the Central Library on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. The event is free; please RSVP to attend.

-- Jason Harper