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J. D. B. News Letter

The Board of Chosen Freeholders, which governs all public institutions in Essex County, will meet in special session this week, to consider action on alleged intolerable conditions, among them discrimination against Jewish patients at the Essex Mountain Sanatorium in Verona, the county institution for tubercular persons.

The county hearing will come as a result of the stir created in this city during the past several days, when County Supervisor Ernest Reed, in a communication to Director Hines of the Board of Freeholders, demanded action and a clean-up of alleged administration irregularities, including racial discrimination.

As concerns the latter, the county supervisor revealed that charges of unfairness had been made by Jewish patients, who declared they were forced to leave the institution because they were “persecuted” until they could “neither sleep nor rest in comfort.”

Mr. Reed declared he first received complaints of discrimination against Jewish patients from the Newark Board of Health. He obtained several statements from complainants, one of whom was a woman. She declared she was placed in Ward No. 2 at the sanatorium, where other patients continually harassed her because of her religion. One woman, she said, told her “all Jews should die.”

A man patient informed the county supervisor that he had been similarly harassed and served with poor food. This same patient also told of an incident where a colored man once attacked him, grabbing him by the throat. A physician who interceded, he said, told him he would have to go home and, accordingly, he finally left the institution.

Dr. Byron M. Harman, superintendent of the institution, in a letter to Mrs. Elizabeth A. Harris, chairman of the Board of Freeholders committee on the sanitarium, denied that Jewish patients had been victims of racial discrimination. Dr. Harman included a statement to this effect in a formal reply to Mr. Reed’s demand for action in terminating alleged intolerable conditions at the sanatarium. Dr. Harman recently was dismissed from his post by Mr. Reed, following a trial before the county supervisor on charges involving neglect of duty. The superintendent appealed his dismissal, is now serving without pay, and the case is pending for decision in the State Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the superintendent asked for greater authority in dismissal of staff employees at the sanatorium. This brought the counterdemand from Mr. Reed for a cleanup of alleged conditions regardless of personalities or politics.

Inference of racial discrimination, Dr. Harman stated in his letter to Mrs. Harris, is “unfair and unjust,” in so far as he had personal knowledge. He added:

“Since I have been superintendent the service rendered by me and the staff has been without any discrimination by reason of race, color, creed or religion and such a condition would not be tolerated by me for one moment.

“The only exception I know of was a complaint made to the supervisor and with which he is entirely familiar and which originated by the teasing of a certain patient by other patients under treatment and had nothing whatever to do with any member of the staff of the sanatorium. The day following the episode mentioned Dr. Bennet, first assistant physician, heard of the incident and immediately investigated and reprimanded those who took part in this prank. Apparently, a complaint was made by the patient or by a relative of the patient, because at a subsequent date Supervisor Reed gave the chairman of the Verona committee a statement which she immediately placed in my hands and we immediately had an inquiry.

“As members of the committee making the inquiry we had Dr. E. Edward Gluckman, president of the supervisory and consulting staff; Freeholder Lindeman, Supervisor Reed, the chairman, and myself. The first meeting was attended by the chairman, Dr. Gluckman and myself and thereafter a meeting was held which was attended by the chairman, Freeholder Lindeman and myself and it was the unanimous decision of those connected with the inquiry that there was nothing of serious import. Supervisor Reed did not attend any of the meetings of this investigating committee, but the chairman wrote him on July 15, 1929, as follows:

” ‘In enclose information which explains itself. Mr. Lindeman tells me there is nothing to it but gossip.”

Dr. Gluckman and Freeholder Lindeman are Jews.

The charges and counter-charges that have been hurled about in this case, have taken on special significance in view of the fact that the Freeholders are now proceeding with the erection of new sanatorium buildings to cost the taxpayers of the county $3,000,000, and such a proceeding, of course, requires the advice and cooperation of the superintendent.

As concerns the proposed hearing by the Freeholders, Mr. Reed is quoted as follows:

“Of course any one making an investigation now into my charges would find that conditions at the sanatorium at this moment are practically ideal. The kitchens and wards have been cleaned up, there is no sign of any fighting between patients and as all of (Continued on Page 8)

“But this,” continued Mr. Reed, “is no indication that the situation has been cleaned up permanently. It is possible that as soon as the present furor is over and conditions there have subsided the place will again develop the obnoxious conditions I have complained about.”

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