Here lies Meyer "Doc" Ellenstein, whose fame comes from presiding over Newark during the Great Depression and from being the only Jewish mayor of Newark.
Born in New York City, the good-looking Ellenstein was a boxer and a Patterson silk-factory worker becoming becoming a dentist, then a lawyer.
Like all mayors of Newark, Meyer Ellenstein and his city commission were widely thought to be corrupt. In 1933, Charles Becker formed a "Newark Taxpayers Protective League" to publicize city governmen misspending. Most of the allegations of wrong-doing involved the Port of Newark and the nascent Newark airport. For instance, at the port the city spent $190,000 for land offered at $16,000 two years before. A year later the city spent $78,000 for land worth $7,000 at the airport. The police department bought a $500 door. The superintendent of the Newark Boys Home got a $5,000 office. Mayor Ellenstein's own law firm handled 1,000 tax appeals.
In 1937, Mayor Ellenstein and a several other members of the city commission were indicted. No matter what chicanery actually took place, Ellenstein did admit to knowing Longy Zwillman, one of the two biggest gangsters in Newark. Ellenstein and his associates were acquited, but many people believed he was guilty anyway.
Less well known about Ellenstein were his accomplishments in enlarging Newark airport and in working successfully with the Pennsylvania Railroad on the ongoing Penn Station project. Unbelieveably, Ellenstein nearly got the New York Stock Exchange to move to Newark. As the commissioner of public works after World War II, Ellenstein was instrumental in persuading Anheuser-Busch to build a brewery in Newark. (stock exchange source, Cummings, August 8, 2002)
Ellenstein was also a friend to African-Americans. In the 1920s he advertised Newark to poor blacks in the South (this was controversial) and was an ally of Irvine Turner, Newark's first black councilman.
Ellenstein died in February 1967, at age 78. In his will he gave $200,000 to the West Orange YMHA.