Among those who perished when the ocean liner Titanic sank on this date in 1912 were Ida and Isidor Straus, co-owners with Nathan Straus of Macy’s and Abraham & Straus department stores. Ida (born 1849) was offered a place on a lifeboat but refused it, saying to her husband, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.” Isidor (born 1845) also refused a lifeboat seat, giving it instead to Ida’s maid, Ellen Bird. Isidor was a founder of the American Jewish Committee, and his philanthropy was also key to sustaining the Educational Alliance of New York and numerous projects in the yishuv in Palestine. Several other prominent German- Jewish families lost members on the Titanic, including the Guggenheims and the Seligmans. Jewish survivors included Edith Louise Rosenbaum, who became the first female war correspondent during World War I. Ida Straus’s valor was widely praised in the Jewish community, with articles in the Yiddish and German-language press extolling her courage and devotion.
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” —Straus monument in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.