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In 2005, Joan Adler, an archivist who serves as executive director of the Straus Historical Society, contacted Meyer Moore’s son Carl about an article she was researching for the Straus family newsletter. During the course of their discussions, Carl Moore became convinced that the wealthy woman who had given up her seat in the lifeboat was Ida Straus, the wife of R.H. Macy & Co. owner Isidor Straus. Ida Straus famously decided to stay by her husband’s side, declaring, “We have been living together for many years. Where you go, I go.” Isidor, too, refused to enter a lifeboat while other men remained on board, and both perished when the Titanic sank.
Carl Moore’s ex-wife, Linda Moore, who is vice president for academic affairs at Emerson College in Boston, also believes in the Moor-Straus connection. A number of years ago, at a meeting of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans in Pittsburgh, Linda Moore had a chance to speak with John Wendell Straus, a grandson of Ida and Isidor Straus’s. She told him that if it had not been for his grandmother’s sacrifice, her children might not have been born. She said John Straus asked a question that moved her deeply: “Are they good people?”
She had reason to answer yes. Her son, Christopher Moore, is an associate professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her daughter, Lee Moore, is a newly ordained rabbi and senior Jewish educator for Hillel at Kent State University in Ohio.
The connection between the Moores and the Strauses is a touching tale but, sadly, one that is likely not true. Multiple eyewitness accounts by survivors, along with inquest testimony and the records from the Carpathia, make it very unlikely that Beile Moor and Ida Straus crossed paths during that critical hour in their lives.
Beile Moor and her son reached the safety of the Carpathia via the Titanic’s lifeboat No. 14, which was located near the rear of the ship on her port side. That lifeboat was lowered at about 1:30 a.m.
According to many eyewitnesses, the drama of the Strauses’ last hour played out near lifeboat No. 8 and other lifeboats near it. Those crafts were situated near the front of the ship on her port side. It was there that Ida Straus first refused to leave her husband’s side.
Eyewitnesses said that the Strauses were still on board the doomed vessel, standing near that same area of the boat deck, when some of the last lifeboats were being lowered at about 1:45 a.m. It was one of those boats that Isidor Straus desperately attempted to persuade his wife to enter, and it was in that location of the ship that the two were last seen.
(Ida Straus was not the only first-class female passenger to die after forgoing the safety of a lifeboat. Another woman, Bessie Waldo Allison, abruptly gave up her spot when she learned that her husband and son were boarding a boat on the Titanic’s starboard side. Allison, the wife of a wealthy Montreal stockbroker, may have been in a rear, port-side lifeboat when this took place.)
Speaking by phone from her office in Boston, Linda Moore said that the new revelation is disappointing but does not change, in the least, her opinion or feelings about Bella Moor. “She was an incredibly strong woman,” Moore said, “whose courage and ingenuity a century ago in saving herself and her son made possible the two wonderful, productive and successful children [I have] today.”
Moore said that she and her daughter — who recently made “Bella” her Hebrew name — remain committed to knowing and preserving the true story of Bella Moore, a remarkable Jewish woman from Russia who survived war, persecution and history’s most notorious maritime disaster to make a new and better life for herself, her son and all who came after them. Of this, there is no doubt at all.
Contact Michael Hirsch at firstname.lastname@example.org