Last week I posted on the claim from 1855 that “Masonry is a Jewish institution” by “the founder of American Judaism“, but I had to rely on a secondary source albeit a scholarly and Jewish one. Now thanks to Henry, I have the original source. Henry’s an frequent commenter on my blog, and his knowledgeable insights are usually far more informative than my posts that he’s commenting on. So a public thank you to Henry for his success in obtaining and sending me the two 157-year-old newspaper pages below.
Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819 — 1900), 32nd Degree Freemason.
In August 1855, when Wise wrote the articles below, he would have been 36 years old, and was both the editor, founder and proprietor of the Cincinnati Jewish newspaper in which they appear, The Israelite, since 1874, known as The American Israelite. With with the full articles, we are able to learn in what context he made his assertions (turns out he did it repeatedly) that Masonry was a Jewish institution.
Wise had clearly been incensed by a letter which had been published in The Boston Morning Times from an anonymous Mason from Massachusetts, in which he had claimed:
“… here in Massachusetts Masonry is a Christian, or rather Protestant institution ; Christian, as it merely TOLERATES Jews ; Protestant, as it abhors Catholics,”
Wise reprinted the letter from the Massachusetts Mason in the August 3, 1855 edition of The Israelite, and penned a response, in which he stated:
“We characterize the above principles as anti Masonic, because we know that not only Catholics but Israelites in this country and in Europe are prominent and bright Masons. We know still more, viz. that Masonry is a Jewish institution whose history, degrees, charges, passwords and explenations (sic) are Jewish from the beginning to the end, with the exception of one by-degree and a few words in the obligation, which true to their origin in the middle ages, are Roman Catholic. (…) it is impossible to be well posted in Masonry without having a Jewish teacher,“
A fortnight later, in the August 17, 1855 edition of The Israelite, Wise published a letter from “A Young Mason” from Boston, Massachusetts, responding to Wise’s original article. Once again, Wise followed it with a response. This time he wrote:
“Masonry never was especially Jewish, nor is it now especially Christian, it always sustained, and according to its nature must sustain cosmopolitical character.”
But that was in direct response to an assertion by “A Young Mason”, that a Rev. Brother Randall (presumably, a Protestant clergyman and Mason in the Massachusetts), insists that Masonry “was once mainly Jewish but now it is mainly Christian.”
A clearly enraged, and at times sarcastic Rabbi Wise, went on to clarify his position that Masonry was a Jewish institution. He also insisted that Jews gave the world Christianity to gradually convert the heathens to the teachings of Israel’s prophets. And then mocks the Rev. Brother Randall, by stating that the Jews did not do him personally a favour, although he is a privileged position, being a preacher in a faith which the Jews created (as Henry pointed out: Jewish scholar Samuel Oppenheim declined to quote these passages from Wise, even though he quotes from this article in his 1910 book on Jews and Masonry):
“It is a great favour, the Rev. R. believes that the Jews are admitted in the lodges etc. of which they must be sensible and grateful. Why does he not consider it a favor, that we have the privilege of living in our houses. Masonry was founded by Jews as a cosmopolitical institution, hence it is a favor for the Jew to be admitted in the lodges, viz. in our own house. How sapient!
We Jews have given birth to the masonic fraternity as a cosmopolitical institution; but we consider it no favor to admit you in the lodge, provided, however, you leave your secterianism outside of the consecrated walls. We have given you Christianity to convert the heathens gradually to the pure deism and ethics of Moses and the Prophets; still, we consider it no special favor bestowed on you from our side, that you have the privilege of being a preacher in one of the churches.”
The Israelite, August 3, 1855 (enlarged version)
The Israelite, August 17, 1855 (enlarged version)