The Book of Mormon…in Yiddish?


You may associate the Book of Mormon with show-stopping musical numbers and lots of Tony awards, but before it was a hit musical the Book of Mormon was…a book. In fact, it was the foundation of the Mormon religion.

Mormonism places an especially high value on proselytizing (including, notoriously, baptizing people who are already dead), which has led Mormons to send missions out all over the world. Though their first attempts at converting Jews didn’t go very well, (as a missionary sent to Israel in 1872 reported, “there is no infidel on the face of the earth who can disbelieve the mission of the Savior more than they do”) they had some luck in Germany. In 1888 Rabbi Edward Joseph Isaacson studied the New Testament, left his congregation, and ultimately became a convert to Mormonism. He traveled to Utah, and within months had produced a handwritten Yiddish translation of the Book of Mormon.

This odd story goes from oy vey to happy ending. The manuscript could have been used to convert many more Jews, but for some reason Isaacson left both Utah and the Mormon church in 1890. His Yiddish translation has never been published.

Watch the opening number of The Book of Mormon on Broadway:

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