The sinking of the HMS Titanic is one of history’s great tragedies. When the ocean liner that had boasted of being unsinkable hit an iceberg and sank, twice as many people died as survived. There is no exact count of the number of Jewish passengers, but it is known that there were enough Jews to merit the hiring of a kosher chef!

Among the Jews who died were Isidor and Ida Straus.

Isidor Straus was born in Germany but raised in Georgia. In 1873, Isidor and his brother Nathan opened a crockery and glassware business in the basement of New York City’s R.H. Macy’s Department Store. In 1893, Isidor and Nathan purchased the store and made Macy’s one of the best known and largest department stores in the world. Isidor was also politically active, acting as an advisor to President Grover Cleveland and serving in Congress from 1894-1895.

Ida Blun Straus, also a German born immigrant to the United States, married Isidor in 1871. Ida’s life was devoted to supporting her husband in his business activities and raising their seven children. It was known that the Strauses were devoted to each other, and, during his time away in Congress, they wrote daily letters to each other.

In 1912, the Strauses took their 15 year old granddaughter Beatrice to Europe and decided to return on the HMS Titanic. (Beatrice remained in Germany.) On the night the ship hit the iceberg, the Strauses were offered places on one of the lifeboats. The noble 67 year old Isidor declined, but urged his wife (63) to save herself. She refused, stating “I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die together.”

They were last seen sitting on deck chairs awaiting their ultimate fate. Only Isidor’s body was recovered.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *