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The Jewish “Gentile” Governor in Utah

In my early years of graduate school, I became interested in a project that compared mainstream American attitudes toward Mormons and Jews during the Progressive Era. One night while looking around on the internet, I came across the name Simon Bamberger, the first Jewish, democratic, and non-Mormon governor of Utah. He served as governor between January 1917 and January 1921. Born in Germany in 1846, he left for New York City as a teenager and eventually migrated to Utah in 1872. Throughout his years in Utah before he ran for governor, Bamberger ran two hotels and built a railway between Ogden and Salt Lake City. As the story goes, Bamberger’s supporters urged him to campaign in a community of Norwegian Mormon converts where Bamberger was greeted by a Norwegian man who stated:

“If you tink ve let any damn Yentile speak in our meeting house, yure mistaken.” Bamberger replied: “As a Jew, I have been called many a bad name, but this is first time in my life I have been called a damned Gentile!” The Norwegian man changed his demeanor when he learned Bamberger was a Jew and enthusiastically proclaimed: “Hear him men, he’s not a Yentile, he’s a Yew, an Israelite. Velcome my friend; velcome, our next governor.”[1]

Read the rest of this story at juvenileinstructor.org
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