A few days ago an Australian newspaper carried a small item headlined “Freemasons exposed”. It reported that one of the largest online genealogical websites, Ancestry.com, has added historic records of two million British Freemasons to its resources. Unfortunately, the newspaper seemed to pander to popular prejudice against what it called “the secretive Freemasons,” by noting gratuitously that those records contain “5500 policemen, 170 judges, 169 MPs, 16 bishops and an Indian prince” – thus implying, in the light of that headline, that these men’s membership of the craft was somehow improper, self-serving, and not in the public interest. It thus fed a canard long thrown at Freemasons, at least in Britain and Australia – that they look after their own, and form a shadowy nefarious powerful elite.
How a friend’s long-dead great-grandfather would have smiled at the notion that he was part of an elite. He was a British sailor from a lower middle class family who joined the Royal Navy as a teenager, retiring from the service with the rank of chief petty officer having spent many years on board a succession of ironclads as a stoker in the boiler room. Hardly an elite job. He became a Freemason when he was serving in a squadron based for a long period in Bermuda, jocularly recalling that “it was either the Lodge or the brothel”. He remained a loyal Freemason until the end of his life, as well as an active member of his local Anglican church, for he saw no contradiction in belonging to either. After all, Freemasonry is open to those who believe in a “Supreme Being”.
Far from being an organisation that promotes divisiveness and harm, Freemasonry, though not particularly fashionable these days, promotes camaraderie and charitableness. On the European Continent during the eighteenth century Freemasons were in the forefront of the Enlightenment and of liberalism. It was this that made the Roman Catholic Church fear and resent them, leading to Pope Leo X’s edict forbidding Catholics to join lodges. Yet a notion persists that Freemasonry bans Catholics, which is untrue; in the English-speaking world there are certainly Catholic members, and indeed there are members of most major faiths, including Jews.
Freemasonry contains numerous affinities to Judaism. In their article on Freemasonry in the Jewish Encyclopedia published in 1904 (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6335-freemasonry), scholars Cyrus Adler and Australian-born Joseph Jacobs, provide the eye-opening very long list of “chief technical terms of freemasonry which are connected with Jewish ideas and expressions”. They describe Freemasonry as an organisation “devoted to the promotion of fraternal feeling and morality” which in “its modern form … appears to have arisen in London in 1717, and thence spread through the British Isles to the Continent, reaching North America about 1729. In the preliminary stages which led up to freemasonry, there are traces of the influence of Judah Templo, the constructor of a model of Solomon's Temple, who visited England in the reign of Charles II. A coat of arms said to have been used or painted by him resembles greatly that adopted later by the freemasons of England … “
Emeritus Professor Aubrey Newman, of the University of Leicester, in a published talk to the Jewish Historical Society of England about Jews in English Freemasonry (http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/england_articles/Jews_in_English_Freemasonry.htm) tells us that the Grand Lodge’s records “of 1723 show the names of several Jews, such as Benjamin Deluze and Simon Ansell, and in 1725 Israel Segalas and Nicholas Abrahams; by 1732 Solomon Mountford, Solomon Mendez, Abraham Ximenes, and Abraham Cortissos. Grand Lodge each year appointed a number of Grand Stewards who had the very responsible and very public task of organizing the annual Grand Festival; among the lists of stewards can be found such names as Solomon Mendez (1732), Dr Meyer Schomberg (1734), Benjamin da Costa (1736), and Isaac
Barrett, Joseph Harris, Samuel Lowman, and Moses Mendez (all in 1738).”
Furthermore, “From the records of individual Lodges we find that when Lebeck's Head Lodge was constituted in 1759 thirteen of its founders had Jewish names. The Lodge of the Nine Muses which was founded in 1777 included amongst its earliest members Francis Franco, Raphael Franco, Dr Isaac Sequira, and Abraham Teixera. There are other Lodges of distinction and prestige which contain Jews. The Prince of Wales' Lodge – admission to which was in practice restricted to associates of the Prince himself – has several Jews and equally we find that in the Grand Master's Lodge No. 1 that a Jew was its Master in 1800.” They were Sephardim, but “The records of the Lodge of Israel, founded in 1793, show that its founders and members came largely from Ashkenazi tradesmen in the East End of London. In 1802 Nathan Meyer Rothschild was initiated in Emulation Lodge, while his [Sephardi] brother-in-law, Moses Montefiore, was initiated into Moira Lodge in 1812. There were then four other Jewish members – Benjamin Cohen, Isaac Cohen, Moses Asher Goldsmid, and Myer Solomon Solomon – all Ashkenazim. The records of these Lodges usually give details of the occupations of their new members and there is a very wide variety of them - Dealer, Chapman, distiller, doctor, feather dresser, draper, merchant, musician, jeweler are all to be found.”
There is no doubt that the lodges helped to facilitate the integration of Jews into British society. Granted, in both Britain and the United States there were isolated instances of lodge members looking askance at the notion of accepting Jews, but such bigotry, which was common in nineteenth-century Germany and occurred in certain other continental locations, was very much the exception that proves the rule. To quote Aubrey Newman: “In the Lodge of Friendship there is a minute for 2nd November 1752; 'Br Oliver Newman proposed a Jew to be made a Mason; the question being put for and against it was by order of the Master to be decided by a holding up of hands which was carried in the negative and concluded for the future no Jew should be recommended or admitted into the Lodge.' I would add that despite that ruling later that same month a Jew was apparently initiated in that very Lodge, and three years later he was elected Master of that Lodge. Two other Lodges at the end of the century passed similar resolutions but they all seem to have been ignored, as testified by the number of Jews on their lists of members…. In England a number of lodges exist formed exclusively of Jews, but as a rule the latter have joined the ordinary lodges, in which some of them have reached a very high rank.”
I mention the cordiality of British and American lodges towards Jews because one or two Jewish friends have over the years made derogatory remarks about Freemasonry, no doubt influenced by the prejudicial attitude towards Freemasonry that still exists in far too many minds, especially on the political left, as was seen in Britain a couple of decades ago when a leftist MP mounted a campaign against them that was almost persecutory. It is as well to remember not only that Freemasons have been allies of Jews but that they, too, have been agents of modernity and liberalism, and that in consequence the enemies of the one have typically been enemies of the other.
Take the renegade Jew Jacob Brafman, for example. That obnoxious denizen of Tsarist Russia, a former Hebrew teacher in Minsk who left Judaism and turned government informer, censoring Hebrew and Yiddish books in St Petersburg and Vilna, authored in the mid-nineteenth century the vile Kniga Kahala (Book of the Kahal) which seriously traduced Russian Jewry. A precursor to the notorious “warrant for genocide” (in Norman Cohn’s phrase) Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion concocted some decades later, it was, as far as I’m aware, the first publication to link Jews and Freemasons as partners in some gigantic conspiracy against the established order.
Then, too, the ultramontane and fascist persecutors of Jews in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France classed Jews, Freemasons, and Protestants as the trio of so-called métèque elements held, absurdly, to be deliberately and perversely undermining the nation. Hitler, of course, actively persecuted Freemasons.
Indeed, there are numerous contemporary internet examples of the same sick mindset, combining grotesque antisemitic, anti-Israel, and anti-Masonic tripe that routinely blames Judaism, Zionism, and Freemasonry for the world's troubles.
The video here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxxWlQhkbGI), dating to 2012, is an example of the genre: an insight into the raw antisemitism that still lurks in some quarters – the kind of meshugge Jew-hatred, with references to rule by the Rothschilds and a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy – that really should have had the decency to have died along with Hitler. In the same vein is this pathetic guy, Kalen Ockerman, painting a mural with antisemitic content that same year on a wall in London’s East End (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9p8Og6-YcY). Not to mention this excrescence (http://www.memri.org/clip_transcript/en/2707.htm), a Hamas TV drama aired five years ago that contains (as translated by Memri.org) the immortal lines: “The hands of Freemasonry have shaken the filthy hands of the hypocrites – of the Union and Progress Party, for example. One conspiracy followed another, until a coup d'etat took place. The coup ended the rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, on March 10, 1909. The greatest obstacle was removed from the path of the Jews. Jewish minds and defiled hands have brought down the Caliphate, and a new stage in the conflict has begun.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if there are further examples from that neck of the woods in the ensuing years. After all, just as Islamic extremism is a sworn enemy to Jews and Israel, so is it a sworn enemy to Freemasonry. This chilling piece is indicative (http://freemasoninformation.com/masonic-education/anti-masonry/anti-freemasonry-in-islam/hamas-and-al-qaeda-on-freemasonry/). Let’s all support each other.
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