Professor Gross: Is the Statue of Liberty a Jewish woman?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

J. (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Rachel B. Gross is the John and Marcia Goldman Professor of American Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University. In this opinion story she wrote, she explores the use of the Statue of Liberty to represent American Jewish identity.

“Jews began utilizing the symbol of the Statue of Liberty as a beacon of welcome for Jewish immigrants and refugees almost immediately, even before a plaque containing Lazarus’ poem was added to the statue in 1903, five years after her death. Yiddish poets utilized imagery of the statue, including immigrant poet Abraham Liessin, who wrote his poem ‘Statue of Liberty’ in 1897.

“Jewish references to the statue continued through the 20th century, particularly in support of policies that allowed European Jews to emigrate to the U.S. in times of crisis. Israel Zangwill’s 1908 play ‘The Melting Pot,’ which popularized that phrase, utilized imagery of the statue in its overly dramatic dialogue.”