NATHAN STRAUS AND THE GRAND DUCHESS
ON Sunday morning 11 January 1931 the family of the great philanthropist Nathan Straus called me by telephone from New York, saying that Mr. Straus had died at four o'clock that morning, and it was the unanimous request of the family that I make the address at his public funeral, to take place on Tuesday.
Early Tuesday morning I took the train to New York and at the station entered a taxi to be taken to the beautiful Temple Emanu-El for the funeral exercises. When I gave that address to the taxi driver, he said 'Then you are going to the funeral of one of the best men who ever lived.'
The magnificent auditorium was filled; the bearers were prominent citizens of New York, headed by Mayor Walker. Three Rabbis read Psalms and offered prayer, and I was the only non-Jewish person in the pulpit and the only speaker. Mr. Straus had told his sons that no long oration must be made and that he must not be praised; that they should ask me to make the address, and that I must confine myself to a brief account of the facts in his life. Accordingly I did so; but I quoted the remark made to me by the taxi driver.
The most conspicuous object in the temple was the coffin, a plain, unpainted pine box. Here he set an example which ought to be followed, but which will not. Mr. Straus thought it was contrary to ethics to spend a great sum on a coffin when the money could be put to so much better use in charity.