The Golden Door

By Albert Evans, Artistic Associate

In 1949, Irving Berlin added a new song to his soon-to-open Broadway musical, Miss Liberty, a fictional account of the sculpting of the Statue of Liberty.

Instead of writing his own lyric, Berlin borrowed lines from “The New Colossus,” a sonnet by Emma Lazarus engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted on the statue’s pedestal.

“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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words held a special meaning for Berlin. In 1893, when he was five years old, his family fled Tsarist Russia—along with the many thousands of other “homeless, tempest-tost” refugees driven from their homes by brutal anti-Jewish pogroms.

Berlin’s last memory of Russia was watching his house burn down while his mother held him and wept. His first memory of America was seeing the Statue of Liberty, her torch lifted to welcome him and his family as their crowded boat arrived in New York Harbor. Continue reading “The Golden Door”