We here at Stand for Israel have long been fans of James Cameron’s epic movie, Titanic. No scene in the film is more touching than the elderly couple shown lovingly embracing one another during the doomed ocean liner’s final moments.
But we are even bigger fans of history, and today we have a true and epic love story to share with you — the story of Isidor and Ida Straus, a Jewish couple aboard the ship on whom those characters were based.
Isidor Straus was born to a Jewish family in Germany on February 6, 1845. Immigrating to the United States as a boy, Isidor grew up to briefly serve on Congress and also become co-owner (along with his brother, Nathan) of Macy’s department store.
Ida Blun was also born on February 6 in Germany, though four years later than her husband. Her Jewish family came to America, as well, where she met and married Isidor in 1871. The couple had seven children and were known as particularly affectionate throughout their marriage — writing letters to each other everyday when Isidor was away on congressional duties or business. This love and affection would be displayed right up until the end.
Isidor and Ida spent the winter of 1912 in the south of France, and were excited to return to America. Booking passage on the latest and most luxurious ocean liner of the day, the Strauses boarded the RMS Titanic for the voyage across the Atlantic. On the night of April 14, 1912, the ship hit an iceberg and quickly began to sink. And while the popular movie might have us believe that the elderly couple died holding tightly to each other in their bed, the truth is much more moving.
As the giant vessel began to list and sink, and as the rush of passengers crowded toward the few available lifeboats, Isidor was offered a seat in one of them so that he could accompany his wife. Mr. Straus saw that there were still women and children aboard the Titanic and would not allow himself to be saved before them. Ida insisted that her maid safely board a lifeboat, but refused to leave her beloved husband’s side, telling Isidor, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.”
Just a short while later, Titanic sank, taking Isidor and Ida Straus with it, along with more than 1,500 others. The Strauses were last seen on the ship’s deck, arm in arm. Isidor’s body was recovered and buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, while Ida was never found. On their shared monument, this loyal Jewish couple’s love is memorialized with these timeless biblical words of Solomon:
Many waters cannot quench love – neither can the floods drown it. (Song of Songs 8:7)