Emma Lazarus Project

The Emma Lazarus Project explores the story of Emma Lazarus, a fifth-generation American Jew caught in an important turning point in American and Jewish History. The initiative—including an exhibit, curriculum and poetry contest—uses primary sources straight from the archive to encourage students to piece together Emma’s fascinating story, and to join the ongoing conversation about American identity.

Explore the Resources from the Emma Lazarus Project

This video was made possible (in part) by funds granted by The Covenant Foundation. The statements made and views expressed, however, are solely the responsibility of the author(s).

Emma’s Sitting Room

Opened in Winter 2019, this exhibit situates the genesis of the New Colossus poem in a brownstone sitting room, where the author, Emma Lazarus, immersed herself in the debates and literature of the day. Read and discuss Emma’s words and immerse yourself in the issues of the time.


The life and Work of



The American Jewish Historical Society

Bring the story of Emma Lazarus to your classroom. Most famous for writing The New Colossus, Emma’s life and legacy will inspire your students to participate in the ongoing conversation of what it means to be an American.
What will my students do?
  • Examine and interpret primary sources
  • Make connections between the past and present – Emma’s life and theirs today
  • Use their voice to engage in the issues that matter to them
  • Write a poem that expresses what it means for them to be American
In the first year of the contest, AJHS received over 350 submissions from poets across the country. Read and find inspiration from the poems written by the 2020 winners and finalists in this online interactive gallery.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

Non pas comme l’arrogant géant de renommée grecque 
Franchissant terres et mers de son pas conquérant,
Ici, à nos portes baignées par les flots et le soleil couchant 
Se tiendra une femme puissante portant une torche,
Dans laquelle la foudre est emprisonnée.
Son nom est Mère des Exilés. Son flambeau rayonne,
annonce la bienvenue au monde entier; son regard clément
Не дерзкий грек, не воин-покоритель
всех, что охватит взор, земель и вод –
с похищенною молнией встает
она – гонимых покровитель,
отвергнутых, всех тех, что гонит ветер
нужды и распри, рабства гнойный гнет –
к закатной гавани у западных ворот,
Distinto del gigante descarado de los antiguos griegos
que con cada pierna conquistaba un continente:
acá en nuestra entrada que limpia el mar del atardecer
habrá una poderosa mujer con una antorcha
repleta de relámpago, y se va a llamar
Madre de los Exiliados. Desde su mano iluminada
brilla la bienvenida a todo el mundo. Sus ojos mansos
,שֶׁלֹּא כְּמוֹ הַנָּפִיל הַיְּוָנִי הַיָּהִיר
,עִם רַגְלַיִם עֲנָקִיּוֹת מְפֻשָּׂקוֹת בֵּין חוֹף לְחוֹף
כָּאן תַּעֲמֹד בַּשְּׁעָרִים שְׁטוּפֵי יָם בִּשְׁקִיעָה
אִישָּׁה אַדִּירָה עִם לַפִּיד, שֶׁשַּׁלְהַבְתּוֹ
הִיא בָּרָק כָּלוּא, וּשְׁמָהּ הוּא
אֵם הַגָּלוּיוֹת. הַמַּשּׂוּאָה שֶׁבְּיָדָהּ
זוֹהֶרֶת לְכָל עֵבֶר בְּבִרְכַּת הַבָּאִים, עֵינֶיהָ הַפַּיְסָנִיּוֹת צוֹפוֹת

Essay by Alicia Ostriker

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” proclaims the Mother of Exiles, in words that reverberate today…

Essay by Mihaela Moscaliuc

When Principal Deputy Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli suggested, in August 2019, that immigrants be welcomed if “they can stand on their own two feet, be self-sufficient, pull themselves up by their bootstraps…

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