Object of the Month - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Object of the Month

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July 2019

Statue of Liberty Lamp Manfred Anson (1922–2012) Brass; cast, engraved New Jersey, 1986 Gift of Jerome S. and Suzanne Teller

 

Statue of Liberty Lamp

This Hanukkah lamp (Hanukkiah, or Hanukkah menorah) is replete with imagery associating freedom for immigrants in an American context with the fight for religious freedom that is commemorated on Hanukkah. The candle holders of the Hanukkah lamp were cast from a 19th-century Statue of Liberty souvenir, and a bald eagle perches front and center. These American symbols of freedom are placed near inscriptions of events throughout Jewish history, from the Exodus from Egypt to the founding of Israel in 1948, when freedom triumphed over adversity.

 

Artist Manfred Anson’s personal history informs his subject matter and interpretation in this piece; Anson escaped Nazi Germany as a teenager via Australia, and later immigrated to the United States. He made this Hanukkah lamp in honor of the Statue of Liberty’s centennial in 1986, and this one is number 49 in a limited edition of 60 that were created. The lamp expresses the artist’s gratitude for a safe haven and represents his passionate interpretation of the meaning of Hanukkah—equating the ancient victory of the Maccabees over their oppressors with the modern democratic ideals of America, which promises religious freedom for all its citizens. In 2013, one of these Anson Hanukkah lamps was lit at the White House Hanukkah celebration.

 

Emma Lazarus, Poet Gerta Ries Wiener (1898–2000) Bronze USA, 1983 1 3/4 x 1 31/32 inches Jewish-American Hall of Fame, a division of the American Jewish Historical Society

 

Emma Lazarus Medal

Poet Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet for the Pedestal Art Loan Fund Exhibition held in 1883 as a fundraiser for the Statue of Liberty's pedestal. Her poem “The New Colossus” presents the Statue of Liberty as the “Mother of Exiles” who welcomes immigrants to America. Lazarus was active in efforts to aid Jewish immigrants in New York City, inspiring her interest in the subject and her identification with the immigrant experience as is evident in the poem:

 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land,

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

 

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" Cries she,

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

 

In 1903, sixteen years after Lazarus’s death, a plaque featuring the poem was placed inside the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. Moved to the Statue's entrance in 1945, the poem remains a powerful call for American society to embrace those in need of refuge. This medal, created for the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 1983, represents Lazarus’s literary and humanitarian legacy. The reverse of the medal shows immigrants on a ship looking hopefully towards the Statue of Liberty as they arrive in America.