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September 20: Mayor Barnert of Paterson

September 20, 2014
Polish-born Nathan Barnert, who came to the U.S. a pauper at age 11, participated in the California Gold Rush, made his fortune in clothing (especially Union Army uniforms) and real estate (he was an early builder of mill-style factory buildings), and became a reforming mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, was born on this date in 1838. According to a 1920 hagiography, History of Paterson and Its Environs, Barnert, who served for two terms, “delved deep into the financial standing of the city, armed himself thoroughly with exact information, and overcoming apparently insurmountable obstacles... disclosed the maladministration of the public business and deplorable municipal dishonesty. A part of the result of his work was the prosecution and imprisonment of a number of officials.” Barnert was a major supporter Paterson’s YMHA and paid for the construction of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, known as the Nathan Barnert Memorial Congregation. A statue of Nathan Barnert was erected outside Paterson’s City Hall in 1925. “His “public bequests are as follows: Barnert Hebrew Free School, $52,000... $10,000 to Barnert Memorial Hospital, and $25,000 more five years hence; $2,000 to St. Joseph’s Hospital; $1,500 to Paterson General Hospital; $10,000 to the Barnert Memorial Temple; $1,000 to Paterson Orphan Asylum, $1,000 to Paterson Orange lodge... and $1,000 to Cataract City lodge, Royal Arch Masons.... In addition several trust funds are created: one of $20,000, the interest of which is to be distributed on the day before Thanksgiving each year to the needy and worthy Gentle families of Paterson; the same amount for worthy Jewish families to be distributed the day before Passover each year.” —Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 13, 1928