Emma Lazarus was an American Jewish poet born in New York City. She was born to Sephardi parents, whose families were originally from Portugal.
Lazarus is best known for “The New Colossus”, a sonnet written in 1883. Its lines appear on a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
She also argued for the creation of a Jewish homeland thirteen years before the term Zionism was used.
From an early age, she studied American and British literature and started writing her own poems, which attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
She became more interested in her Jewish heritage after reading the George Eliot novel Daniel Deronda and learning about the Russian pogroms, which forced thousands of Jews to leave their home. Lazarus then began to advocate for Jewish refugees and helped establish the Hebrew Technical Institute, which provided vocational training to Jewish immigrants.