AURORA, Ill. — “Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience,” a national traveling exhibition opening at Aurora University on Oct. 31, traces the life, intellectual development, work and lasting influence of the Jewish poet and social activist.
AU was selected as one of 18 sites for the exhibit, which will run through Dec. 16 in the atrium of the Institute for Collaboration, 407 S. Calumet Ave. Three companion events — two lectures and a panel discussion — will be held in conjunction with the exhibit.
The display, open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, is free to the public. It includes informative panels featuring photographic reproductions of historical images and original works by Lazarus, including “1492,” “The Creation of Man,” and “The New Colossus.”
The exhibit is being sponsored by the AU Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action, and Phillips Library.
“One of the aims of the Wackerlin Center is to be a resource for education, dialogue and understanding concerning religious diversity, on campus and in the wider Aurora community,” said Jonathan Dean, Assistant Professor of Religion and Wackerlin Center Fellow. “Emma Lazarus’ is a powerful voice, from a Jewish background but with universal wisdom, helping us to reflect as a community on the issues of identity, religion, nationality and belonging.”
Lazarus (1849-1897) was a fourth-generation American from a prominent Jewish family in New York City who is known for the iconic words of her 1883 poem, “The New Colossus,” engraved on a plaque now located in the Statue of Liberty Museum: “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” In addition to her progressive work as a poet, Lazarus was a tireless advocate for justice and championed her most cherished causes: denouncing anti-Semitism, promoting Zionism, and training and educating refugees.
“Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience” was developed by Nextbook, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Jewish literature, culture and ideas, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The national tour of the exhibit has been made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the David Berg Foundation and an anonymous donor, with additional support from Tablet Magazine: A New Read on Jewish Life. “Emma Lazarus” is also a book by Lazarus biographer Esther Schor, published as part of the “Jewish Encounters” series by Nextbook/Schocken.
The three companion events at AU are also free and open to the public:
- Nov. 3, 3:30 p.m.: Magda Brown, a Holocaust survivor from Skokie, will present “From Slavery to Freedom” in Crimi Auditorium, 407 S. Calumet Ave. She will describe coming to the United States as a Hungarian refugee and beginning a new life after World War II. In a November 2010 lecture at AU, Brown inspired a capacity audience with her chronicle of surviving stays at two Nazi concentration camps. Her story reflects many concerns and passions of Lazarus’ life and work. A reception will follow her presentation.
- Nov. 15, noon: “Emma Lazarus: A Passion for Justice” will be discussed in Crimi Auditorium by Victor A. Mirelman, rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest and chair at the Spertus Institute in downtown Chicago. An expert in the Sephardic Jewish community, to which Lazarus belonged, Mirelman will link her life and work to the quest for peace and human fulfillment.
- Dec. 7, 3:30 p.m.: A panel of AU faculty members will discuss “Emma Lazarus and Us” in Crimi Auditorium. Offering reflections on Lazarus’ legacy and its importance for today will be Rebecca Sherrick, AU President; Barbara Strassberg, Professor of Sociology; Donovan Gwinner, Associate Professor of English; and Jonathan Dean, Wackerlin Center Fellow and Assistant Professor of Religion, who will moderate. A question-and-answer session will conclude the panel discussion.