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Moses W. Beckelman, J. D. C. Director-general, Dies of Heart Attack

December 12, 1955
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Moses W. Beckelman, director-general for overseas operations of the Joint Distribution Committee, died in New York City yesterday of a heart attack. He was 49. The funeral will be held Tuesday afternoon.

As JDC director-general since 1951, Mr. Beckelman had played a key role in the development of relief, resettlement and reconstruction programs on behalf of needy Jews in Europe, North Africa and Israel. He made his headquarters in Paris and had returned to the United States only two days earlier to speak before the 41st annual meeting of the JDC, to be held in New York next Thursday.

Mr. Beckelman first joined the JDC staff in 1939 and directed JDC programs in the Baltic States. After a period of service with several intergovernmental organizations he joined the Paris headquarters of the JDC as second in command of the vast JDC European program in 1946. He became director-general, supervising JDC’s programs in more than 25 countries overseas, in 1951, and was scheduled for re-election to this office at the JDC meeting this week.

Moses W. Beckelman was born in New York City and attended its schools studying at the College of the City of New York, from which he received a Bachelor of Accounting degree in 1926 and a Bachelor of Science degree in 1928. He also took graduate studies at Columbia University, the School for Jewish Social Work and the New York School of Social Work.


Mr. Beckelman was honored for his work on behalf of overseas needy by the French Government, which in 1953 awarded him the Legion of Honor with the rank of Chevalier. Since 1951, when Mr. Beckelman became JDC director-general, he supervised the expenditure of nearly $150,000,000 to bring aid to DP’s, refugees and others in Europe, Israel and Moslem countries.

After his service for JDC in the Baltic States beginning in 1939, he also completed a survey on refugee problems in South America for JDC in 1941-42. He then joined the U. S. Office of Strategic Services, 1942-43, and was later associated with the United States Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations and with UNRRA, directing the latter agency’s first refugee camp near Casablanca, Morocco.

Mr. Beckelman became assistant director of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees in February 1945, and as assistant to Sir Herbert Emerson, the director of the Committee, he visited Europe, Africa and China to supervise or to establish IGCR assistance programs in those areas. The Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees was founded in 1938 by 32 nations to care for and resettle stateless refugees.

Prior to his activities with the JDC, Mr. Beckelman had held a number of posts in the teaching and social work fields. From 1927 to 930 he was a faculty member at the College of the City of New York. Subsequently he worked with the YM-YWHA movement in New York, was a New York City civil service examiner, managing editor of the Jewish Social Service Quarterly and divisional secretary of the Welfare Council of New York.

Mr. Beckelman had also served as the president of the Metropolitan Association of Jewish Centers, as secretary of the National Conference of Jewish Social Welfare, as section chairman of the International Conference of Social work, 1950; and as a contributor to numerous professional periodicals.


In a statement in behalf of the JDC, Paul Baerwald, honorary chairman, Edward M. M. Warburg, chairman, and Moses A. Leavitt, executive vice-chairman, declared:

“The untimely death of Moses W. Beckelman will come as a blow not only to the many who knew him personally, but to tens of thousands of men, women and children throughout the world who owed their survival and continued well-being so largely to his efforts. As director-general of JDC’s operations in many areas, he brought to his work not only a wealth of experience, but a deep insight, a warm understanding and an idealism which was apparent in everything he did. All of these qualities served to earn him, the friendship, the gratitude and devotion of Jews in every part of the world.

“He was the rare figure of a man who was able to earn both the respect of heads of government and international figures with whom he dealt and negotiated, and the abiding love of tens of thousands of men, women and children to whom he was the embodiment of kindness and loving care. For those of us who worked most closely with him, his passing represents an irreplaceable loss.”

William Rosenwald, UJA general chairman, said Mr. Beckelman’s “outstanding career was marked by the finest ideals of American and Jewish social service.” Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president, and Jacob Blaustein, senior vice-president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, now in session, expressed shock at the death of a “distinguished associate who had direct responsibility for one of the most important phases of the program for relief and rehabilitation of the surviving victims of Nazi persecution.” Statements were also issued by Mrs. Rose Halprin, acting chairman, and Gottlieb Hammer, executive director, of the Jewish Agency; Irving M. Engel, president, and Dr. John Slawson, vice-president, of the American Jewish Committee; and many others.

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