Mosesa. Leavitt. J.D.C. Leader, Dies in Switzerland; Funeral in New York
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Mosesa. Leavitt. J.D.C. Leader, Dies in Switzerland; Funeral in New York

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Moses A. Leavitt, executive vice-chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, died today at the University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, after suffering from a stroke last month while attending a meeting of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, of which he was treasurer. He was 70 years old.

Funeral services will be held in New York Friday at 12:30 at Riverside Chapel. Mrs. James Zuckerman of Great Neck, the only daughter of Mr. Leavitt, was at his bedside in Geneva. In addition, he is survived by four grandchildren. His wife died in 1956 in New York.

Mr. Leavitt had been with the JDC since 1940. Earlier he served as JDC secretary during the years 1929-30. A chemical engineer, he worked for the Dupont Chemical Co. and other chemical firms till 1922 when he decided to change to Jewish social work. For seven years he was vice-president and secretary of the Palestine Economic Corporation.

Mr. Leavitt was generally recognized as one of the country’s outstanding authorities in the field of overseas relief and emigration problems. As a leading figure in the development of JDC’s programs, Mr. Leavitt has helped guide the organization’s relief, reconstruction and resettlement operations in behalf of needy Jews abroad over a period of more than 20 years.

His work in the field of overseas assistance has earned him the respect of both govern mental and non-governmental officials. One indication is the fact that in December 1956, he was appointed by President Eisenhower to the “President’s Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief.” Another is that since the beginning of 1958 he has been serving as honorary chairman of the American Council of Voluntary Agencies. Previously he served as chainman of the ACVA since 1954.

One of Mr. Leavitt’s outstanding achievements was his success as chief of the negotiating team to secure compensation from the German Government for victims of Nazi persecution, and to obtain payment in recognition of the material losses sustained by Jews who perished without heirs. Mr. Leavitt, who was honorary secretary to the presidium of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, headed the negotiators who were successful in obtaining an agreement in September 1952 under which the German Government agreed to pay $107,000,000 over a ten-year period to the CJMCAG, in addition to $822,000,000 to be paid to the Israel Government.


During World War II, Mr. Leavitt served as an adviser to the United States War Refugee Board in the work of rescuing thousands of Jews trapped in Hitler-held Europe. He was elected executive vice-chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee in January 1947. In December 1949 he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Palestine Economic Corporation.

Mr. Leavitt is a former member of the Board of the United States Committee for Refugees. He was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1957. In January 1959, he received the Honorary Fellowship from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was also elected a member of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in March 1959, and on March 29, 1960, he was appointed to the Administrative Committee of the United Hias Service.

A native New Yorker, Mr. Leavitt was graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. degree in 1916 and has been in the field of Jewish social work since 1923 when he joined the staff of the self-support department of the Jewish Social Service Association, later becoming supervisor, a post he held until 1929 when he entered the service of the JDC.


Edward M.M. Warburg, chairman of the JDC, said in a statement: “Moses A. Leavittis passing removes from the scene not only a gifted and devoted professional, a leader of the American Jewish community and an internationally recognized authority on refugee problems, but a man who was above all an architect of human destinies. There are thousands of men and women all over the world who are alive today because of his efforts; his dedication and his skills helped save and shape the lives of hundreds of thousands.

“For some 35 years he guided the programs of the Joint Distribution Committee on behalf of needy and harassed Jews overseas. As Executive Vice-Chairman of the JDC during the Nazi era and World War II, he devoted himself to rescuing those Jews who could be saved and to devising methods for helping even those who were trapped inside Nazi Europe. After V-E Day he threw his energies into immediate large-scale assistance to the concentration camp survivors, to the DP’s. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, he initiated programs which eventually brought hundreds of thousands of men, women and children from the DP camps and from lands of oppression to safety in the Jewish State.

“His daily task was helping the helpless; his goal and his purpose were to help them to help themselves, to review and rehabilitate them to the point where they no longer needed help. He represented the best of two noble traditions, of both Judaism and the American ideal. He was a towering figure among international civil servants–his extraordinary sense of purpose and his achievements earned him the respect not only of his professional colleagues, but of community and government leaders as well. More than this, they earned him the gratitude and affection of men and women everywhere. He will be sorely missed in days to come.”

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