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    Emma Lazarus & Chanukah

    In the second half of the 19th century Emma Lazarus was a star in the American literary firmament. Hers are the words on the Statue of Liberty:

    Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to be free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore:
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tos’t, to me.
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

    At first barely conscious of her Jewishness, she was aroused to Jewish identity and commitment by the Russian pogroms and became an ardent supporter of a Jewish revival in the Holy Land. One expression of her new-found Jewishness and Zionism was the following poem (note that the Chanukah menorah also inspired some of Theodor Herzl’s finest writing):

    Kindle the taper like the steadfast star,
    Ablaze on evening’s forehead o’er the earth,
    And add each night a lustre, till afar
    An eightfold splendour shines above the hearth.
    Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
    Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
    Chant psalms of victory till the heart take fire,
    The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.

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