I am chazar b’tsuva. Ex-American. I live in Haifa 23 years, most of the time chilloni. I am Ashkenazi, but after being asked to complete a minyan in a Sefardi Morrocan synagogue across the street, I never stopped going.

There is a macher in the synagogue, who leads service many times as the SHATZ, who is apparently a Grand Master of the Freemason branch of Haifa. Is Freemasons consider a cult? As such, another Rav suggested that when he leads the tefillot, not to answer AMEN. However, a much serious issue arose. He is rich and actually donated the funds to construct the BIMAH in the synagogue building. The building and bimah are well over 10 years old. Today the Shatz upon hearing that, refused to alight on the bimah to lead the prayers since it is equivalent to the bimah being constructed by a goy according to his argument. I do not wish to get involved with this machlochet, but I am considering to personally leave the synagogue.

Is there a way to get around this? For example, can a piece of the bimah be ripped off and made pasul. Then reconstructed by the funds of the congregants and reconstructed by Jews to get around this problem?

Thanks.

Answer:

As I’ve noted before (here), I am not particularly savvy with the intricacies of Freemason beliefs, and cannot comment on the question of whether and to which extent these run contrary to basic Jewish faith and practice.

However, whatever the case I don’t see a reason for concern with regard to the Bimah. Being a Freemason obviously doesn’t make the individual into a non-Jew, and even if he was a Goy this would not disqualify the Bimah from being a legitimate structure for prayer (for sources see Tur and Beis Yosef, Yoreh De’ah 259; Rema, Yoreh De’ah 254:2; Shach 4; Shut Chasam Sofer, Vol. 2, no. 225; Shut Betzel HaChochmah 3:51; Shut Tzitz Eliezer 18:66 – among others).

If the donation was made “for the sake of idolatry” this might constitute a problem – but I don’t think that Freemasons are suspected of idolatrous behavior.

I understand your consideration for leaving the Synagogue – a Machloket is always something to stay clear of – but if you might be able to help them resolve the issue it would certainly be to your credit.

Good luck and best wishes.

 

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