Emma Lazarus Site Support Notebook: Programming Ideas

Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience
Site Support Notebook

  • Host an exhibit “teaser” event one or two months before the exhibit arrives to generate interest – possible events include lectures, films, and readings from Emma Lazarus’s poems.
  • A program focused on the political iconography of the Statue of Liberty, followed by a discussion of current immigration and diversity issues.
  • Sponsor a One Book, One Community program during the exhibit using Emma Lazarus by Esther Schor, a compilation of Emma Lazarus’s works, or a book on a related topic. A reading guide for Schor’s Emma Lazarus can be found at: http://www.tabletmag.com/bookseries/366/emma-lazarus/
  • An exploration of the challenges Emma Lazarus faced as a secular Jewish American woman. How did her identity influence her work as an advocate for Jewish immigrants and refugees?
  • Introduce related online exhibitions, such as the Library of Congress’s “From Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America,” http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/haventohome/, to further explore the experience of Jewish immigrants in the United States.
  • A program focused on the social history of Jewish women in America and the impact of their contributions as activists, teachers, entrepreneurs, and feminists. Use Her Works Praise Her by Hasia Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly as a guide.
  • Create displays or related exhibits of photos, oral histories, and other display items documenting immigration in your community.
  • Compare Emma Lazarus’s nineteenth-century era to your institution’s region. How was your community impacted by Jewish immigration? How did your community view the anti-Jewish violence that Emma Lazarus spoke out against?
  • Find people in your community who have family stories, diaries, and/or artifacts documenting the Jewish experience locally or elsewhere in the US. Create related exhibits or ask them to speak at a program. Record their stories.
  • Readings by community members, including local celebrities and journalists, of works by Emma Lazarus and other literary figures of her day, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman. How do their works relate to the history and culture of their time?
  • Host a panel discussion led by scholars focused on Zionist ideas, history, and controversy, with connections made to Emma Lazarus’s early advocacy for Zionism.
  • Emma Lazarus wrote several poems in response to the Civil War, such as “The Day of Dead Soldiers” and “Heroes.” Host a program focused on Emma Lazarus’s reactions to the human cost and aftermath of the Civil War.
  • Sponsor a book discussion group using books from the lists in the resources section or others you think will be well received.
  • Create intergenerational programs for community members to draw connections between Emma Lazarus’s life and work and present day impacts of her legacy.
  • Look at the contributions of Jewish Americans to our society, exploring biographies, films, diaries, and other materials for inspiration. Bring in a local scholar to discuss particular individuals in depth, especially those that had an influence in your community.
  • A program focused on the life and works of nineteenth-century women writers, including Emma Lazarus, Julia Ward Howe, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. How did the work of these nineteenth-century writers affect American history and culture? In what ways did they influence the development of a distinct American literary tradition? How did their work affect the role of women in society?
  • A hands-on workshop, facilitated by a scholar, in which participants explore family history and immigration in the context of the American politics and social culture.
  • A program focused on the history of anti-Semitism in American cities, many of which discriminated against Jews by limiting where they could live, work, or attend school. How did your region react to these conditions?
  • Lead a discussion on the concept of immigration and assimilation.
  • Create a public forum for discussion by making space available for written exhibition feedback. For example, pose a question to visitors and make a bulletin board/wall space available for public feedback and comments, or encourage visitors to contribute their comments in an exhibit guestbook.

Program ideas for younger audiences:

  • Hold story time sessions for young people using books about Emma Lazarus.
  • Develop a teen poetry slam. Have teens write and perform poems that creatively express their thoughts and raise awareness of issues related to immigration, or another related topic.
  • Engage young people in hands-on activities during their exhibition visit. For example, invite children to write postcards to Emma Lazarus or write an updated version of Lazarus’s “New Colossus.” On the reverse side of the postcard, have young people create artwork to represent their letter or poem. With permission, create a gallery of completed work.
  • Collaborate with a local debating team or public speaking organization to provide high school students the opportunity for a moderated debate of exhibit-related topics – immigration reform or Zionism in the twenty-first century, for example.
  • Enlist a Teen Advisory Board to help plan and promote “Emma Lazarus” programs for young adults.
  • Partner with a local children’s museum on programs about immigration to your area, or Jewish culture in your community.
  • Create a documentary shorts contest. Teach youth video production software and invite them to explore exhibition themes via images and sound.
  • Include a title for young people in the Emma Lazarus “One Book, One Community” series. 

Program ideas with schools:

  • With a lead teacher or teachers, sponsor an “Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience” curriculum workshop for teachers in your area, using various curriculum materials.
  • Partner with area schools to sponsor an essay contest in the spirit of Emma Lazarus. Just as Lazarus saw writing as a form of activism, encourage participants to write in response to current social or political concerns. Offer prizes and an award ceremony for the winning child/children.
  • Enlist a teacher or librarian to present a curriculum activity to a library audience of young people.
  • Encourage teachers at local schools to use exhibition themes in the curriculum during the exhibit’s display period.
  • Schedule school field trips to see “Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience.” Create an educational activity guide for young people to use and discuss while viewing the exhibition.
  • After viewing and studying the “Emma Lazarus” exhibit, ask older students to serve as exhibit docents for younger classmates. Invite these docents to work together to develop an activity handout for younger audiences to use while visiting the exhibition.
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