Why Did Chassidim Daven At The Titanic Victim’s Kever?

Jakob Birnbaum, z'l, was one of hundreds of Jews who lost their lives in the Titanic disaster. Most of the bodies were never found.

A group of chassidic tourists from Israel was astounded when they visited a beis kevaros in the Netherlands on Friday and discovered the kever of a Jew who lost his life in the Titanic disaster – on that very day 110 years ago.

The group visited the cemetery this past Friday, the 28th of Nissan. The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, which coincided with the 28th of Nissan that year, the yahrzeit of Yaakov [Jakob] Birnbaum, z’l. Birnbaum, who was aboard the Titanic after spending Pesach with his family in Antwerp, was one of the 1,517 people who died in the disaster.  After his body was found in the sea 12 days later, his body was transferred to his family in Antwerp and he was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Putte, Netherlands.

The chassidim of course davened for an aliyah for his neshamah.

Birnbaum’s family was fortunate to have a kever to visit, as only 340 bodies were found out of the 1,517 victims. Several hundred Jews are thought to have lost their lives in the disaster, judging by the last names on the White Star Line company’s list. However, there is no exact count and some of the passengers with non-Jewish last names could have been Jewish. Many of the Jews were immigrants and were staying in third-class cabins, where men had the lowest chances of survival.

Birnbaum’s life story is told on a number of websites that list the victims of the Titanic. According to Geni.com: “Mr. Jakob Birnbaum, 25, was born in Krakow Poland as the second of 9 children to Joachim Birnbaum and Theophilia (Cypres) Birnbaum.

“In 1912, Jakob was a diamond trader officially residing in Antwerp, Belgium, but representing his family’s business in San Francisco, California. Mr. Birnbaum had been to Antwerp for business and should have been back to the US before April 1912, but was persuaded by his family to stay for the Jewish holiday Passover. Jakob had booked passage with another company, but due to the coal strike in England, his passage was transferred to the Titanic which he boarded at Cherbourg (ticket number 13905, £26).

“According to his descendants, Jakob’s family pleaded with him not to take a ship on its maiden voyage, but Jakob reassured his family that the ship was billed as “unsinkable.”

“Birnbaum died in the sinking, his body was recovered by the MacKay Bennett (#148). The body was forwarded on 6 May 1912 to Mr. Joachim Binbaum, c/o Red Star Line, Pier 60, New York City, and repatriated to Belgium. He was moved to the Netherlands to receive eternal burial rights (a Jewish requirement).

“He was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Putte, Holland, across the Belgian border. Atop his grave, is a ship – a symbolic reminder of the Titanic disaster. The inscription on his tombstone reads: Here lies a well-educated young man. May his memory rest in peace. He was the son of Jerucham Birnbaum of Krakow, aged 25 years. He was drowned in the Titanic shipwreck on the 28th day of Nissan. His body was rejected by the sea 12 days later amd was brought home to be buried on the eve of Shavouot in the year 5,672. G-d, whose laws and judgments are full of pity. Young and wise man drowned in the deep of the sea found his tomb among those who inhabit the earth of the Messiah. In heaven his name shall resuscitate. May he share eternal life.”

Yaakov was buried in Putte, which is on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. Since there was a law in Belgium allowing the authorities to dig up any cemetery after 50 years, the Jews of Antwerp chose to bury their dead across the border in Putte, only a half-hour away from Antwerp.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)


  1. If someone’s r”l killed in a car, are some noheig to mention the car accident on the tombstone and put an image of a car on top?

  2. From encyclopedia titanica:
    “His parents were Jeruchim (Joachim; b. 15 August 1856 at Krakow, d. 26 April 1931 in Antwerp, Belgium) and Theophila (Chaja Tuba; nee Cypres, b. 27 September 1863 at Krakow, Austria, d. 25 December 1946 in New York) Birnbaum, who had married 25 December 1883, apparently at Krakow). ”
    See more there.