Salt Lake City, Utah (Feb. 21)
(News Letter from Salt Lake City)
Salt Lake City is of particular interest to Jews since it is, perhaps, the only place in the world where Christians call themselves Jews and Jews are often called “Gentiles.”
Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the evangelical Christian denomination–the unique Christian sect in America known as the Mormons. The full name of the sect is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It teaches that the Jews are of Israel and God’s chosen people. The Mormon sect believes that Jesus will eventually come to the Jews and claim them for his own, confounding any enemies they may still have.
This denomination, founded in 1830, sent one of its leaders to Palestine many years ago–in 1840, to be exact–to dedicate that land to the gathering of the Jews, a movement in which they still firmly believe and are ready to assist at any time, at least, to the extent of lending their moral support.
REGARD JEWS SUPERIOR
To an orthodox Mormon the Nordic or any other race is not superior to the Jewish. This is the stand that Anthony W. Ivins, a member of the First Presidency of the Church, took in an interview with the present writer on the Nordic superiority question. Mr. Ivins, a cousin of Heber J. Grant, the President of the Church, said the fact that the Jews had been able to preserve their integrity as a race in the face of all obstacles was proof that they are racially inferior to none.
The Mormon people regard them-selves as of Israel, too, if you please, and the term “Israel” as applying to themselves is frequently heard in their congregations. They believe themselves to be of Ephraim, and cousins of the Jews, who are of Judah. To a Mormon those not of their faith are regarded as “Gentiles.” Gentiles in Utah often say, in a bantering way, that everybody in Utah outside of the Mormons is a Gentile, even the Jews! But the Mormons themselves would add “Excepting the Jews,” for, as already pointed out. they regard the Jew in the same light that he regards himself. as of Israel, but of another “branch” of the face.
The Mormons hold Heber J. Grant, who is an insurance man by profession and interested in banks, sugar companies, office buildings, mercantile houses, hotels and so forth, as a literal prophet of God, even as Abraham and Moses. They do not compromise on this one inch. Joseph Smith was their first prophet and Brigham Young the second. Others followed until Mr. Grant took the office nearly a decade ago. They assert that they are hated by some sects because of their teachings respecting exclusive divine authority rather than because of polygamy. Polygamy was dropped in the ’90’s, and if anybody in the church attempted it today he would be set upon by church leaders without mercy, as far as immediate excommunication has any terrors. This is because the church undertook to abandon polygamy after the U. S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, and not because of any retraction of faith.
Governor Bamberger, Democratic governor of Utah for four years beginning in 1917, was the first Jew to hold the office of governor of an American state. Governor Bamberger, now deceased, was nominated by Hon. B. H. Roberts, until recently head of the Eastern States Mission of the Mormon Church and one of its most able men. Roberts told the writer in talking on the subject that he deliberately took up the question of his candidate’s race because he knew it would come up in some quarters sooner or later, and during the campaign he was among his most ardent supporters.
“EPHRAIM SHALL NOT VEX JUDAH”
Mr. Roberts said in speaking of the relationship of the Mormons and the Jews. “With us Mormons who are Ephraimites the time has come when Judah shall not envy Ephraim and Ephraim shall not vex Judah.”
Rabbi Samuel Gordon, of Temple Bene Israel, said, “We have a condition in Salt Lake City that is a little unique in the sense that there are so many intermarriages, especially among families of the older settlers. The only way I can account for it is that there is less prejudice here against the Jews than in any other community in the world. This lack of prejudice is due to the Mormon influence, who have felt the sting of persecution themselves and at the same time regard us as their kinsmen.”
There are but 1,500 to 1,600 Jews in Salt Lake City, with two congregations, the Bene Israel and the Monte-fiore, the latter presided over by Rabbi Krickstein, orthodox. In this community of about 140,000, this handful of Jews play a prominent part in its commercial, professional and civic life. Dr. Gordon of Bene Israel and his wife are active this year in the Neighborhood House for boys.
A little over a year ago the Jewish residents of the city bought the home of the late Colonel Wall, wealthy citizen, and turned it into a community center for themselves at a total cost of about $75,000. It is a fine building and enjoys one of the best locations in the city. This building is made excellent use of.