A Titanic Love Story: Ida and Isidor Straus

Mercer University Press  2012


As many Upper West Side New Yorkers are well aware, Ida and Isidor Straus went to their deaths together on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Some may also know the Strauses were Jewish and had something to do with Macy’s, but that’s probably the limit of our collective knowledge. Now McCash’s biography of the Strauses fills in their story. We discover that Isidor’s ancestors were Jews who had settled in Georgia before the Civil War; the family only moved to New York and built a retail empire after the Civil War. Although the Strauses were not particularly observant Jews, their commitment to various social welfare schemes (subsidized employee meals, health care, and vacations) was significant and could be viewed as an expression of core Jewish values. While McCash’s research is thorough, she focuses on telling the family story, rather than raising questions about it. Readers may wonder how the Strauses felt about their slave-holding past, how they viewed Jewish identity, or how they felt about their enormous wealth, but these issues are not explored here. Bibliography, index, notes, photographs.

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