After more than a decade of trying to make a go of it as a white tailor and alteration shop in a mostly black neighborhood in East Orange, New Jersey, Sam Edelstein finally decided to take Horace Greeley’s advice and “Go West, young man.”
He pawned his sewing machine, wife’s jewelry and bought Greyhound Bus tickets for his wife, Muriel, his twelve year old daughter, Selma and himself and boarded the bus for Salt Lake City, Utah. He chose that location because he thought it might be easier to make a living in a town that wasn’t fond of black people and had prospered on Mormon money.
Utah is a Rocky Mountain state between Nevada and Colorado. In the beginning the proposed State of Deseret, was founded by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS, (Mormons), in 1847. It was acknowledged as the Utah Territory in 1850 and became a state in 1896. Believing themselves to be members of a lost tribe, Mormon theology maintains a special affiliation with Judaism, and at the same time identifies Jews as “Gentiles,” that is non-Mormons. Utah is that rare place on earth where Jews are considered “Gentiles.
What Sam didn’t know was that he would be competing with all the other gentiles in town, since the LDS folks had already decided that they were actually God’s chosen people.