A love story of honor
Great-grandson reflects on lives, deaths of Isidor & Ida Straus
By Masada Siegel, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer
It’s one of the great love stories of modern times, filled with honor, integrity and the ultimate act of selflessness.
Isidor and Ida Straus were first-class passengers on Titanic. Ida was on a lifeboat headed for safety when she realized her husband would not be coming. She stepped off and refused to leave his side.
“It was a grand life and a beautiful death. A death of such principle,” said Paul A. Kurzman, 73, great-grandson of Isidor and Ida Straus.
Kurzman is chair of the Straus Historical Society, which fosters educational activities regarding the settlement of Jews in the United States in general, and the Straus family in particular. The society will co-host several events in the New York area in April to commemorate the centennial of the Titanic disaster and the loss of Isidor and Ida Straus.
“My great-grandfather said, ‘I will not get into the boat as long as there are women and children who need to be saved,’” Kurzman said. “He gave his life for his principle and no less, Ida was heard saying, ‘As we have lived together we will die together. I will go down in your arms.’”
Isidor and Ida Straus immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1852. They came to America because of the quiet element of antisemitism that existed, and for economic opportunities.
Isidor was the eldest son of three brothers and one sister in the Straus family and the one poised for a leadership position.
“In every piece of correspondence, everyone asked his opinion,” Kurzman said.
The family would buy R.H. Macy Co. department store in 1896 and took calculated risks to improve the business. They moved the store from 14th Street to 34th Street, which was farmland at the time. Today it is the flagship store of Macy’s, in Midtown Manhattan.