When The Golden Door Closed, They Carried The Torch

When The Golden Door Closed, They Carried The Torch

When Emma Lazarus, 5th generation American, wrote the New Colossus in 1883, she knew that not all Americans accepted the idea of Lady Liberty as a “Mother of Exiles” who embraced the “tired… poor… huddled masses.” Yet Lazarus’s belief in a country strengthened by those “yearning to breathe free” motivated her to write on behalf of immigrants and a progressive and welcoming America. For a period of over forty years, when rhetoric exhorting immigration restriction dominated the political discourse, American Jewish individuals and organizations struggled to keep the lamp lifted. And as world events accelerated the urgency of finding a refuge for Jews in particular, they formed new committees and organizations. After the war, efforts shifted to resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, as the general immigration restrictions would not be lifted until the 1960’s. These stories from the AJHS archive show how even in a period where the dominant rhetoric was that of “no immigration,” immigrant rights remained critical to the ambitions of many American Jewish organizations, and to their ultimate sense of American identity. They recognized the bonds of the shared immigrant and refugee experience. They carried the torch.

Exhibit Closed

This exhibit closed on
Tuesday, March 31, 2020

On Display

All in the Family – Photographs from Across the Jewish World presented by American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
Emma's Sitting Room presented by the American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History