RU-N Launches New Exhibit at Virtual Museum: Straus Family Legacy of Public Service and Philanthropy

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Honors the Strauses, former Macy's owners

The School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) at Rutgers University-Newark, in partnership with the Straus Historical Society, is pleased to announce the addition of a new exhibit room to the Virtual Museum of Public Service (VMPS). Co-sponsored by the Rutgers University-Newark Department of History, the exhibit, entitled: The Straus Family: A Legacy of Public Service and Philanthropy, highlights the Straus family's long history of public service and philanthropy, and includes photographs, stories and links to information about Lazarus and Sara Straus, their ancestors and their descendants.

Lazarus Straus emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1852. He settled in Georgia, became a pushcart peddler and later opened a successful dry goods business in Talbot County. However, in 1862, when the county issued a presentment accusing Jews of usury, Lazarus and his family relocated to Columbus, Georgia before finally settling in New York. There, the Strauses opened a china and crockery business, L. Straus & Son, and eventually became partners in R. H. Macy & Company. As owners of Macy’s for nearly 100 years, the family was an integral part of the commercial development of New York City. The family’s financial success in New York enabled them to give back to the community by assisting those less fortunate; Straus family members have served on the boards of numerous philanthropic organizations over the years.  When Isidor Straus and his wife Ida died in the Titanic tragedy, about 5,000 employees of Macy’s Department Store contributed what little they could afford to create a memorial plaque for their beloved boss.

In addition to their commercial and philanthropic endeavors, the Straus family has been actively involved in American public affairs for more than 100 years. Beginning in the 19th and continuing into the 20th Century, family members have served the public at the federal and local levels. Of note, they were members of the House of Representatives, ambassadors, and presidential cabinet members.

 “As a consequence of the family's involvement in this broad spectrum of public service, philanthropy and civic engagement, the Straus family exemplifies the true American story and spirit, and they have instilled their spirit of philanthropy in others as well,” said Marc Holzer, Ph.D., dean of Rutgers University-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration and VMPS director. “Through this exhibit, we strive to bring to life their struggles and achievements as well as their commitment to public service and philanthropy,” Holzer added.

The Straus Family exhibition room, which chronicles the family’s rich history, will go live in just a few short weeks. To mark this innovation, Rutgers SPAA and the Straus Historical Society are hosting a reception on Tuesday, October 7th from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. Speakers will include: Dean Marc Holzer, director of the Virtual Museum of Public Service; Joan Adler, executive director of the Straus Historical Society; Oscar S. Straus III, chair of the Straus Historical Society Board of Directors; and Al Berr, Straus Historical Society board member. The reception will be held at Rutgers University-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), 111 Washington Street, Third Floor Atrium. Refreshments will be served. Attendance is by invitation only. Please RSVP to Elizabeth Hall at by Friday, October 3rd.  

About the Virtual Museum of Public Service,

Co-sponsored by the American Society for Public Administration, the Alliance for Public Service, the Public Technology Institute and other public service organizations, the Virtual Museum of Public Service maintains more than 30 permanent and special exhibition galleries. Among these are exhibits dedicated to Women in Public Service, Science in the Public Interest, Faith-Based Public Service Initiatives, Firefighters, Philanthropy, Leadership in Public Service, and many more.

Rutgers University-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA),

Ranked 7th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) at Rutgers University-Newark educates and motivates students to choose careers in public service and administration through its innovative and comprehensive undergraduate (BA), Master of Public Administration (MPA), Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA), doctoral (PhD), and professional and graduate certificate programs. The school’s faculty generates knowledge and best practices in public service and administration, and collaborates with public and nonprofit sector organizations and professionals throughout the U.S. and the world. Guided by the principles of knowledge, competence, diversity, and service – with an emphasis on public service values and competencies for effective performance – SPAA promotes accountability, transparency, and performance in the public and nonprofit sectors.

About the Straus Historical Society,

The Straus Historical Society is dedicated to advancing the knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the Straus family and the historical context in which they lived. They accomplish these goals through research, collection, dissemination and education. The focus of the Society's activities is based on the family's involvement in government, commerce, and philanthropy. The Society conducts research and exchanges information with individuals and organizations having an interest in the settlement of Jews in the United States, and publishes the results of its research in the form of newsletters and reports.

Elizabeth Hall, assistant director, Virtual Museum of Public Service (VMPS)
School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University-Newark or 973-353-5382

Helen Paxton, director, Office of Communications, Rutgers University-Newark or 973-353-5262