Some Australian Jewish Masonic History
From WBro Damien of Devoiton
Most Worshipful Brother Hillel Benedykt (GM 2014-16), like his predecessor MWPGM Bob Jones, has been the guest of honour at several Special Shabbat (Sabbath) Synagogue Services at Temple Beth Israel in St Kilda.
MWBro Benedykt is our second Jewish Grand Master, the first being the late MWBro. Henry Nathan (1982-1984). Nearly 250 Freemasons and their partners, together with the regular congregants, filled the synagogue to capacity for a special Shabbat Service at Temple Beth Israel on Saturday 4 July 2015.
I’ve had several Brothers proudly point out with pride that our Grand Master is Jewish. The pride comes in a practical display that Freemasonry values a man’s character and not his bank balance, political leanings, social position and does not judge a person by faith they belong to. At Devotion we have 3 VSLs open during our meeting; a symbol of the unity Freemasonry creates amongst diverse men.
When I think of famous illustrious Australian Freemasons, the giant Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs (1855–1948) comes to mind. He was Governor-General, Attorney-General, High Court Judge and politician. Elected to the first Federal Parliament of Australia, he was initiated in Antrim No 349 Irish Const and was a member of Australia Felix #1 and first Grand Register(1889-1890) of UGLV. Sir Isaacs also a member of the Jewish faith like many other notable Australians like General Sir John Monash (who was not a Freemason).
If you want to poke around and learn something of Australian Hebrew Freemasons, Brother Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple AO has a great blog which consistently appears on google results when researching this topic. Check out http://www.oztorah.com/index.php?s=Freemason You quickly learn of the rich association between Freemasonry, Judaism and Australian history. That research shows there is nothing new in having a leader of our Craft from that faith, even though Victoria has only has two Jewish Grand Masters.
Here are some historical snippets from various sources;
The founders of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation in 1841 were members of Masonic Lodges. The lay spiritual leader of the congregation, Asher Hymen Hart, was initiated into the Lodge of Australia Felix in 1841 and by 1849 was Worshipful Master of the Lodge. At the laying of the foundation stone of the Synagogue he used Masonic terminology in the prayers he composed. The first official minister, Rev Moses Rintel, was initiated in 1849 and in 1858 became Worshipful Master of the Lodge of Judah. (Note, Judah #20 UGLV used to meet at Gipps St and handed its warrant back in 2007, Ed.). Sometimes, as in Launceston, Tasmania, Masonic processions took part in Synagogue ceremonies, even though Masons generally tended not to make their membership of the Craft public. Where there was no Synagogue, as in early Broken Hill, Jewish services were held in Masonic buildings.
In Launceston, Tasmania in 1844; “ St John’s Lodge played a part at the laying of a foundation stone of a Jewish Synagogue. We find that the band of the 96th Regiment, attended by permission of the colonel and officers, playing “Masonic Airs”. The return was made to the lodge room, the band playing alternatively “Burne’s Farewell” and the “Entered Apprentice”….
Jewish religious services were held in the Masonic Hall in Broken Hill from 1900 when the Jewish community numbered about 150 and it was not until 1910 that a Synagogue was erected in Broken Hill on land purchased in July 1907 by Abraham Rosenberg, Samuel Dryen Snr., and Albert Edelman.
The fifteen Jewish families living in Brisbane came together as a congregation in 1865, meeting in a succession of rented auction rooms and a Masonic temple pending the consecration of its first synagogue in 1886.