Gemma Birnbaum, Executive Director, American Jewish Historical Society; Melanie Meyers, Director of Collections, American Jewish Historical Society; Rebeca Miller, Manager of Programs and Operations, American Jewish Historical Society
While Emma Lazarus is best known for “The New Colossus,” a stanza of which was emblazoned onto the Statue of Liberty after her death, the poet was also a political activist who fought for the rights of immigrants and stood up to anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence and economic inequality with contemporaries like Frederick Douglass, Henry George, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Julia Ward Howe. This session will explore the ways in which late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century debates about gender, religion, immigration, race, and labor engaged New Yorkers and other Americans—and how they, in turn, responded from atop soapboxes and on picket lines.
Focusing on NYC’s Union Square, educators will be given the tools to help students identify their own town’s center of politics. Whether through a focus on an individual like Lazarus, or a focus on social causes, presenters will address broader trends of a changing city and nation and shed light on the contours of the ever-evolving identity of the United States.
This seminar is sponsored by the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), the oldest ethnic, cultural archive in the United States. AJHS provides access to more than 30 million documents and 50,000 books, photographs, art and artifacts that reflect the history of the Jewish presence in the United States from 1654 to the present.
Established in 1892, the mission of AJHS is to foster awareness and appreciation of American Jewish heritage and to serve as a national scholarly resource for research through the collection, preservation and dissemination of materials relating to American Jewish history. At our home on West 16th Street in downtown Manhattan, AJHS illuminates American Jewish history through our many archival treasures, scholarship, exhibitions, and public programs. Among the treasures of this heritage are the handwritten original of Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus,” which graces the Statue of Liberty; records of the nation’s leading Jewish communal organizations, and important collections in the fields of education, philanthropy, science, sports, business, and the arts.