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Masonic Service Association of North America

Emessay Notes January 2002

Fighting Fire with Prayer

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah this past September, while most Jews were home dressing for synagogue or putting the finishing touches on festive meals, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik stood at the heart of Ground Zero, surrounded by mounds of smoldering rubble, blowing his shofar. "I just felt that it was important to sound the shofar for the people there," Potasnik says. "They are also a congregation and they wouldn't be able to attend services. But they all remembered hearing the shofar growing up." Standing on the site of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Potasnik trumpeted the centuries-old Jewish call to prayer - and to war - for Jewish and non-Jewish rescue workers alike. Then he headed straight for shul. "When I walked in on Rosh Hashanah night, I held a (respirator) mask and a shofar," he says. "That became the equipment this year." It can be safely assumed that, while many rabbis delivered sermons during the High Holidays relating to the events and fallout of Sept. 11, very few had spent almost every day since terrorists brought the Twin Towers down at the site of the disaster. Potasnik, however, did. In addition to serving as spiritual leader of Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn Heights, NY, since 1972, Potasnik has been the Jewish Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) for the past three years. "Growing up, I was one of those young kids who wanted to be a fireman, much to my mother's surprise. I have always believed that people who are ready to risk their lives to save lives are the embodiment of holiness. It's a noble calling, and therefore, to be a part in any way of that congregation is very special." In the weeks following Sept. 11, Potasnik spoke at memorial ceremonies at Yankee Stadium-which he also helped plan-and at Ground Zero. "The ceremony at Yankee Stadium was intended to reach out to the families of victims and to recognize the bravery of the rescuers," he says. "We all needed to be seen together. Remember, the terrorists want to separate us from one another. So just the visual of being seen together, without all of the speaking, in itself was an important statement to make." Brother & Rabbi Potasnik is a 28 year member of Zeredatha Lodge #483, Brooklyn, NY

(Source: The Jewish Sentinel, Nov. 16-22, 2001)

Military Lodges

Grand Lodges granted Warrants to Regiments to enable them to form a lodge. These were sometimes classed as Traveling Warrants, because they permitted meetings to be held in whatever location the Regiment was stationed. Certain conditions were attached to the issuance of these Warrants. Membership was restricted to members of the Regiment. In the case of the Grand Lodges of England and Ireland only military personnel were permitted to be initiated in a Military Lodge and none below the rank of Corporal. The Warrants were issued to a specific officer and, in most cases, this was the Commanding Officer of the Regiment, probably because his consent, in the first place, was necessary for the formation of the Lodge. The Warrant and the records of the lodge accompanied the Regiment at all times. What could be the first Military Warrant was by the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1732 for a lodge to be held in the 1st British Foot Regiment. The Antients Grand Lodge of 1751 issued its first Warrant in 1755 to a Lodge in the 57th British Foot (1st Middlesex) while, in the same year, the 1717 Grand Lodge, the Moderns, issued a Warrant to the 8th Foot (King's Liverpool). In 1743 the first Warrant issued by the Grand Lodge of Scotland was to a Lodge in the 55th British Foot. By this time 29 Military Warrants had been issued. The issuance of Military Warrants was not restricted to Grand Lodges in the British Isles as records indicate that Warrants were issued by Germany 1739, Holland 1745, Russia 1761 and in 1832 by Belgium. The conditions of service for the average soldier in the eighteenth century were bad. Many of them died from diseases contracted on overseas campaigns in addition to those killed in action. The members of the Lodge were taught such Masonic values as brotherly love, relief and truth. These were in stark contrast to the conditions with which the soldiers had to contend. It is likely that the teachings of Masonry gave hope and a measure of respect to the soldier.

(Source: The Ontario Mason - article by David C. Bradley, PGM)

Unknown Mason Reburied

An El Paso road construction crew came across more than they bargained for when they unearthed human skeletal remains on June 12, 1998. The wooden coffin containing the remains was almost completely decomposed. Texas Department of Transportation archaeologists and the El Paso Medical Examiner's Office determined that the remains were at least 100 years old. After further research, it was suggested that the grave was part of a Masonic cemetery located next to a lodge. The cemetery that had been located on the site of 1868 was later relocated to the existing Concordia Cemetery. Apparently this grave was missed in the move. Dr. H. Gill-King, Director, Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology and Human Identification at the University of North Texas in Denton, and a member of Washington Lodge No. 1117, was requested to examine the remains. At the conclusion of his examination it became Dr. King's responsibility to reinter the remains. Since the remains were presumed to be a Mason, Dr. King contacted The Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas, which assumed responsibility for his reinternment. The Masonic Service Bureau in Fort Worth was contacted to arrange for a burial site and assist in the preparation. Melvin Ford of Gus Garrison Lodge #1273 prepared a wooden container for the remains. This container was placed inside an outer wooden coffin built by R. E. McGowan, Past Master of Keller Lodge #1084. Ironically, Br. McGowan died only a few days after. Monte Brown, president of an area funeral home and member of Arlington Heights Lodge No.1184, assisted the Masonic Service Bureau by providing preparation service and transportation to the cemetery. Masonic burial services were held on August 29, 2001, at the Mount Olivet Cemetery.

(Source: The Texas Mason - article by James Ward, Grand Secretary)

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