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Are the Freemasons Kosher?

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Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain responds to the question: I have been asked to become a Freemason and to join a Lodge. Is there anything incompatible between being a Jew and a Mason, or any other reason for being cautious about this?

If there is any link between Jews and Freemasonry, then it is positive rather than negative. This is because much of it is based on episodes within the Bible, particularly the building of Solomon’s Temple. As a result some Jewish symbols and Hebrew words are used in Masonic ceremonies. In addition, the Freemason started off - I believe in the mid 18th century - as a group of freethinkers. This meant that, unlike virtually all other groups at the time, they were not antagonistic to the Jews, and in fact welcomed Jews as members. Ever since then Jews have been members, and this included rabbis and even some Chief Rabbis.  Moreover, there have been - and still are - what is known as Jewish lodges, where Jews members predominate. In fact, the Bnai Brith organisation - which links Jews together across all religious groups - is closely modelled on the aims and structure of Freemasons.

Supporters of Freemasonary point out that its two main aims are fraternity and charity, both of which are compatible with Judaism. In addition, it is spiritual but not denominational - i.e. one is supposed to believe in the one God (who is described as the Supreme Architect in the sky) but there are no set beliefs apart from that, and so fits in with Jewish monotheism. The fact that Chief Rabbis have been members would also indicate that it is theologically kosher. Of course, there are also critics of the movement. One objection are the rituals involved - although they can be dismissed  as harmless pageantry which may be quirky but are neither dangerous nor heretical. Another objection is that it is a secret society, with limited entry, and with members giving special favours to each other. The latter point may be true - but probably no more so than members of any other organisation, be it a sports group, dance circle or political party. Providing Masons (or anybody else) do not break the law or act in an unethical way, there can be little reason for them not to meet, or for you to join them.

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