Being Kosher on titanic

Collapsible lifeboat D photographed by passenger on Carpathia on the morning of 15 April 1912.
Public Domain(Wikipedia)

One  of the underreported aspects of Titanic is that there were Jewish passengers aboard. Only 27 Jews survived and they were welcomed by the Hebrew Sheltering Home and Immigrant Aide in New York. Synagogues all over the country viewed the sinking as a tragedy. And inspired songs as well.

One of the problems encountered by Jewish passengers was staying true to Kashrut (religious dietary laws called kosher). Jews comprised a fair number of 3 rd class passengers on these ships but many ships had no facilities for kosher food preparation. That meant either you brought rations to eat on the voyage or you fasted. And fasting was not easy on a 5 day or more journey across the Atlantic ocean. In fact, some died from starvation.

The Hamburg-Amerika line started in 1905 having kosher food prepared aboard to serve to mainly 3rd class Jewish passengers. Other lines began to do the same because they could market that Jews would get kosher food aboard their ships to America. And since 3rd class was very profitable for the large liners, it was worth the cost to do so.

The Hebrew steerage passengers were looked after by a Hebrew who is employed by the company as a cook, and is at the same time appointed by Rabbi as guardian of such passengers. This particular man told me that he is a pioneer in this work. He was the first to receive such an appointment. It is his duty to see that all the Jewish passengers are assigned to sleeping quarters that are as comfortable and as good as any; to see that kosher food is provided and to prepare it. He has done duty on most of the ships of the White Star line. On each he has instituted this system of caring for the Hebrews and then has left it to be looked after by some successor. (U.S. Immigration Report, 1909)

Titanic had kosher service according to a recent article on jewishpress.com. “All kosher serving dinnerware and utensils for all classes on the Titanic were marked “milk” or “meat,” and mashgichim (supervising rabbis) were authorized by White Star to regularly inspect the ship’s catering departments in both England and New York. Those who ate kosher food used the same tables as everyone else, were served in the same manner, and were fed food of the same quality.” There was also a kosher butcher that supplied meat and rabbinical supervision to make sure the food was prepared according to Kashrut dietary laws.

Sadly no kosher menu has survived from the White Star Line but it is surmised they did exist. References to kosher meat and being served to Jewish passengers suggest that a menu had to exist. It is a fascinating bit of history to read about. And continues to show Titanic still has stories to tell.

Source: Sailing Aboard The Titanic: A Kosher Cruise? (jewish press.com, 11 Sep 2019)

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