This week has been a historic week for women and all of the women’s movements. As you might know, this podcast is nonpolitical, so I won’t talk about the new President, Mr. Trump. I won’t talk about the inauguration either. But it is impossible to ignore the millions of women who marched as a protestor even more, as a response to President Trump’s words, actions and his derogatory innuendos towards women and their rights. I believe that the women’s march was a lot more than a protest. It was a beginning.
A strong, powerful action that regardless of your political belief women came together. That we are not going backward in time. We are not going to put up with the rubbish we put up with for the last decades and centuries or forever. We will not be ignored. We will not be groped. We will not be objectified and we will not be patronized.
In the spirit of freedom and the end of inequality, and in the spirit of hope that the march has brought back, I’d like to highlight, in today’s podcast, Emma Lazarus.
Emma was a Jewish woman, best known for her poem “The New Colossus” which is engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty. She was born in 1839 and she died when she was only 38 years old. But her first book of poems and translations was published when she was only 17 years old. She was just a child, a girl.
She grew up as part of the elite society in New York City. Her father was wealthy. He was a sugar refiner and they were very well regarded. Mainly because they were not new immigrants from Eastern Europe, but rather they could trace their heritage back to being amongst the first settlers in that area of the United States.
Emma was always aware of being an outsider, of being different. She was also conscious of the antisemitism that bubbled not very far under the surface both in New York and overseas.
Emma Lazarus was not religious at all. She was very happy in her secular life, but she was open about being Jewish, standing up for Jewish rights and civil equality. Her writing was always well received; she was popular in mainstream publications. But she always advocated that immigrants take on the culture of their new country. And reflect the beauty of where they are now and not continually try to adapt their work, writing and their beliefs from the old country and old belief systems. She was very vocal about writing against anti-Semitism and taking a stand against the pogroms in Russia and writing about antisemitism that was going on in the U.S.
Emma Lazarus even wrote in Jewish publications about a new homeland in Palestine. She is credited with being one of the first people to have this vision well before Zionism was even a word and well before Herzl came along. She was a pioneer in those thoughts. She wrote “The New Colossus” in 1883 but that was placed at the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1903 well after she died, 16 years later.
I want to thank the Jewish Women’s Archive, as usual, for most of this information. To end today’s short tribute to this Jewish women’s activist, I’d like to read a short excerpt from her book “Epistle to the Hebrews” where she emphasizes that it doesn’t matter if you, yourself, are doing well if others in the world are suffering. If you don’t’ know, like me, I didn’t know what the word epistle means, epistle means a letter. That’s good to know, so if you ever need to write an epistle instead of a text message, you’ll know what that means.
This is an excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ book “Epistle to the Hebrews.”
“In defiance of the hostile construction that may be put upon my words, I do not hesitate to say that our national defect is that we are not "tribal" enough; we have not sufficient solidarity to perceive that when the life and property of a Jew in the uttermost provinces of the Caucuses are attacked, the dignity of a Jew in free America is humiliated. We who are prosperous and independent have not sufficient homogeneity to champion on the ground of a common creed, common stock, a common history, a common heritage of misfortune, the rights of the lowest and poorest Jew-peddler who flees, for life and liberty of thought, from Slavonic mobs. Until we are all free, we are none of us free. But lest we should justify the taunts of our opponents, lest we should become "tribal" and narrow and Judaic rather than humane and cosmopolitan like the anti-Semites of Germany and Jew-baiters of Russia, we ignore and repudiate our unhappy brethren as having no part or share in their misfortunes- until the cup of anguish is held also to our own lips.”
Have a good week everybody. Please take strength and hope from the women’s march and go do good in your world.