NEW YORK (Aug. 22)
Jews are involved in the Leavittown, Pa., fight over the first purchase of a home in the five-year-old planned community by a Negro family more in terms of their stand on a civil rights issue than in any anti-Jewish repercussions, an Anti-Defamation League official said today.
Alexander F. Miller, director of the ADL community service division, said there has been no indication of organized anti-Semitism during the two-week running battle over the purchase and take-over of one of Leavittown’s 18, 000 neat suburban homes by William Myers, an equipment tester for a Trenton refrigeration company.
The first reaction of the all-white community was formation of a Leavittown Betterment Committee of owners with the avowed intention of forcing Myers to sell the house, which was sold to him by one of Leavittown’s 3, 000 Jewish families.
Violence erupted for two reasons, according to qualified sources. One was the hesitation of local police to crack down on demonstrators until state police moved in at the request of the local sheriff. The other was the delay by law and order forces in Leavittown in organizing to maintain peace and support Myers’ rights.
Among the latter were both individual Jews and the well-organized Jewish community in Leavittown, these sources added, saying that “Leavittown Jews at no time supported the Betterment Committee but they also did not want to stick their necks out in support of the Negro family.”
HOME SOLD TO NEGRO FAMILY BY JEWISH OWNER
The Jewish home-owner who lives next door to Myers and who informed Myers that the house was available for sale has received some anti-Semitic telephone calls, Miller said. He also said that in the heated over-the-back fence discussion throughout the community on the pros and cons of the Myers purchase, there have been some anti-Jewish remarks, as there were during some of the demonstration gatherings.
This summary of the anti-Semitic aspects of the Leavittown situation to date was confirmed by several organizational observers. Miller added he believed the entire situation would return to normal within a few days, with the Myers family staying, and little if any damage done to the cordial relations between Jews and non-Jews in Leavittown. He said the 3,000 Leavittown Jewish families were active in most phases of Leavittown’s civic life.
A newly-formed “Citizens’ Committee for Leavittown,” headed by Rev. Raymond L. Harwick, is being assisted by representatives of a number of Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, operating out of the William Penn House, a Quaker headquarters in Leavittown.
This phase began when Stephen Remsen of the Jewish Labor Committee went to Leavittown to help Myers, with the assistance of the local American Friends Society. Remsen reported back to the JLC that the situation was highly unorganized and that help was needed.
Al Vorspan of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations was then invited by Rev. Harwick and went to Leavittown Wednesday to join with officials of the ADL, the National Council of Churches of Christ, the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Jewish Community Council of Lower Bucks County. These representatives were scheduled to remain in Leavittown and work with the Citizens Committee until conditions returned to normal.