THE 'SOLIDARITY' LODGE AND THE ORDER OF 'B'NEI B'RITH': FROM THE HISTORY OF JEWISH FREEMASONERY ON POLISH TERRITORIES
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'B'nei B'rith' was a Jewish organisation modelled on Freemasonry, established in the USA in mid-nineteenth century. The official goal of this association and of its Cracovian 'Solidarity' Lodge (created in 1892), was moral and intellectual development of its members, as well as moral, intellectual and economic advancement of all Jewish communities settled in the region. The 'Solidarity' Lodge exerted influence far beyond Cracow: it assisted in the establishing of similar organisations in Lvov (Lviv), Warsaw and Przemysl, and after the regaining of independence by Poland in 1918, its members undertook measures to set up the 13th District of 'B'nei B'rith' to encompass the whole country. Within this new structure, which started functioning in 1923, the 'Solidarity' Lodge assumed a leading position. The authoress discusses the ideological evolution of the Lodge. Originally it gathered individuals in favour of assimilating Jews with the Polish nation (while retaining religious and some cultural differences). But from the beginning of the 20th century the Lodge became an important centre of Zionist thought. In order to circumvent the official prohibition of discussing political questions, which limited the activities of lodges in Cracow, 'Solidarity' members agreed to treat the problem of the reconstruction of the Jewish state in Palestine as an issue above party differences and as such 'not political'. They also treated the Lodge as an organisation beyond party politics, a higher coordinating body in the efforts towards creating the Jewish state. After 1918 the Masonic, i.e. secret, character of 'B'nei B'rith' proved a problem in dealings with the Polish authorities. Since the Lodge intended to upkeep these contacts it took a course on gradual rejection of the terminology and ritual borrowed from Freemasonry. In 1938 the Polish authorities dissolved the 13th District of the 'B'nei B'rith' Order in accord with the law, which demanded that all Masonic organisations be closed down.
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