Following the story, “What’s Jewish About the Titanic?” the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., opened the first ever tribute exhibit called, “The Titanic Jewish Experience.”
A huge success, the media, community and Titanic followers attended as David H. Kurzman, great, great grandson of Isidor and Ida Straus, and Joan Adler, executive director of the Straus Historical Society, traveled to Tennessee and hand-delivered the gold locket found on Isidor Straus’ body when it was recovered. This was the first time the locket has been on display since 1912. David’s father, Paul A. Kurzman, had never lent it for exhibition, until this year as the exhibit honored all of the Jewish passengers and crew who were lost when the Titanic sank.
The Titanic Museum Attraction, in Pigeon Forge and Branson, Mo., are venues where the great ship has been recreated in three-quarter scale. Several of the historical society’s artifacts are on loan to TMA including Isidor’s wedding band along with Isidor and Ida’s recreated first-class sitting room. The watch fob is one of the Titanic’s most important and emotionally charged artifacts ever recovered. It remained in the possession of Straus family descendants until being on loan to this exhibit.
In a conversation with Adler, the SHS’s executive director, she said, “There was a very moving event at the opening of the event. David’s father, Paul, inherited the locket when Isidor’s body was recovered. It was given to his oldest daughter, Sarah, who gave it to her daughter, Eleanor, and then she gave it to her son, Paul, who cherishes it.”
Adler added, “Isidor’s wedding band has also been on loan to the Titanic Museum Attraction. Since they were doing a Jewish exhibit for the first time, we hand delivered the locket and attended the opening. It was so moving as we entered a replica of Isidor and Ida’s sitting room. David presented the locket to Paul Burns, the vice president of programing, who handed it to the 90-year-old Captain Smith, an actor who portrayed the ship’s captain. He said a prayer and they placed it in the display case.”
Adler said, “Not many people knew Titanic had a kosher kitchen and a menu, including separate china and silverware with Hebrew lettering, keeping milk and meat dishes separate. We realize that people have a morbid fascination with the Titanic. We’re grateful that all the individuals lost on the ship are being recognized and the story continues to be told. I have this wonderful job to share the legacy of this family, as they are mindful of what they’ve inherited. This legacy of morality, kindness, public service, and philanthropy is important to the Straus family, their descendants. They are dedicated to preserving their ancestor’s story, which is a reminder that there are good people in this world.”
Paul R. Burns, vice president and curator of The Titanic Museum Attraction, replied, “The tribute to Jewish passengers and crew on display at Titanic Museum Attractions in Branson and Pigeon Forge began with a question: Did you know there was a kosher kitchen onboard Titanic? The tribute displays have enjoyed a successful run and included passenger stories linked by fate to the Holocaust.
“It was originally set for a six-month display period but was so well received by our guests we extended it,” Burns continued. “Many of our crewmembers received praise from our museum guests for telling the Jewish story of those onboard and, in many cases, the message to us was simply ‘thank you.’ We have even been approached by several Jewish and Holocaust museums inquiring about the possibility of a temporary display of our Jewish tribute at their respective venues. We are currently exploring the feasibility of such a venture for the near future. It turned out to be quite an honor for the company and our entire crew to tell this story; with many elements of this tribute set to remain for permanent display moving forward.”