Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Acheson

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Acheson

15 November 1945 [New York City]

Dear Mr. Acheson:

Mrs. David Levy, who was Adele Rosenwald, is extremely anxious to go for The Joint Distribution Committee,3 to Europe to see at first hand the conditions of Jewish people, and return in order to help in their fund raising campaign.

It will be an extremely valuable service if she can go because we are going to need all of the private aid possible if there is not to be death and pestilance rampant throughout Europe this winter. The Jewish people are the hardest hit of them all.4

Mrs. Levy has tried to get the assurance of a priority on her return trip, and so far has been unsuccessful.

If you think it as important as I do, could you talk to the War Department and arrange it? She would have to go soon in order to be able to see what she must see and get back by the time the fund raising campaign starts in early February.

                                       Very cordially yours,


1. Levy devoted the majority of her postwar efforts to raising funds to assist displaced persons through the United Jewish Appeal, the Citizens Committee on Displaced Persons, and the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, organizations in which she held executive posts and which ER supported. In addition to their professional working relationship, including their support of the Wiltwyck School for Boys, Levy and ER maintained a close, personal friendship until Levy's death (EJW; Lash, Love, 349, 351; "Mrs. David M. Levy Dead at 67; Civic and Social Service Leader," NYT, 13 March 1960, 86).

2. ER to Dean Acheson, 15 and 26 November 1946, AERP; Dean Acheson to ER, 19 November 1946, AERP; ER to Robert Patterson, 15 November 1946, AERP; Robert Patterson to ER, 27 November 1946, AERP; "Child Care Abroad Still at Low Ebb," NYT, 31 January 1946, 10.

3. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, founded in 1914 to aid Palestinian Jews, assisted more than 700,000 Jews, mostly in displaced persons (DP) camps, following World War II. The organization helped Jewish refugees by providing direct aid as well as helping to reunite families, establishing job training programs, and promoting Jewish religious and cultural traditions within the DP camps. In June of 1945, the committee joined with the United Palestine Appeal and the National Refugee Service under the umbrella group United Jewish Appeal for Refugees Overseas Needs and Palestine in their efforts to raise $75,000,000 to aid Jewish refugees and displaced persons in Europe ("3 Jewish Groups Settle Dispute," NYT, 4 June 1945, 32; "3 Jewish Agencies Back United Appeal," NYT, 11 June 1945, 18; "Jewish Children Out of Nazi Camps," NYT, 24 August 1945, 6; American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, http://www.jdc.org/who_history.html, accessed 22 September 2005).

4. Approximately six million Jews perished in the Holocaust, and following the liberation of the last concentration camps in May of 1945, Jews continued to struggle in Europe. In addition to continued violence against their communities, European Jews needed both direct relief aid and assistance finding their family members. Many of the survivors, particularly from eastern Europe, remained in displaced persons camps, and as winter approached, many worried how the needs of the displaced persons population would be met, given uncertain food and fuel supplies. See n2 Document 74 (Gilbert, 318-22, 329-30).

On Winning the Peace

In mid-November 1945, ER traveled to Chicago to celebrate the founding of Roosevelt College,1 an institution born out of its faculty's opposition to racial and ethnic discrimination.

In November 1944, the governing board of Central YMCA College instructed its president, Edward J. Sparling, to impose religious, ethnic, and racial quotas on its student body and to prohibit the classroom discussion of "controversial subjects." Sparling, who earlier battled the YMCA's practice of maintaining an all-white swimming complex, refused to conduct the surveys necessary to establish the demographics the board requested. After the board told him his "qualifications" did not meet presidential standards, he resigned under protest April 17, 1945. An angry faculty, after voting no confidence in the board, then voted 62 to 1 to sever ties with the college and follow Sparling to a not-yet-operational college. That afternoon, Sparling and his colleagues founded Roosevelt College "even though they had no student body in place, no building or equipment, no library, no accreditation, and no endowment."

From its outset, the college committed itself to being open to all students, declaring in its charter that its mission was "to provide educational opportunities to persons of both sexes and of various races on equal terms." It admitted African American, Jewish, and Japanese students at a time when law and custom excluded them from other institutions, and it welcomed many children of working-class immigrants from Eastern Europe. Its faculty included African Americans, Asians, and European emigres.2 ER, who saw this as a "living memorial" to FDR,3 joined author Thomas Mann, CIO president Philip Murray, and philanthropist Marshall Field on the college board and helped recruit other board members.4

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Dean Acheson