Israel Makes History in Fiji

May 14, 2013 by Tania Tobias
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Freemasonry in Fiji has a Jewish factor in its history.

Ian Ross, Past Grand Master of NZ,  Morris Tobias, Past Grand Officer, Victoria. (my husband) Tony Israel, Master of Lodge of Lautoka, (my brother) Past Grand Officer of NZ, Jim McQuitty, Past Grand Officer of NZ

Ian Ross, Past Grand Master of NZ, Morris Tobias, Past Grand Officer, Victoria. Tony Israel, Master of Lodge of Lautoka, Past Grand Officer of NZ, Jim McQuitty, Past Grand Officer of NZ

It began in 1871 when a “Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons” seeking a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland in Polynesia was opened in Levuka, then the seat of a Government headed by Ratu Seru Cakobau. Some European settlers had advised Ratu Cakobau that Freemasonry was a dangerous secret society implicated in the doings of the Ku Klux Klan, but an enquiry with his ministers convinced him otherwise and he signed a document authorizing Lodge Polynesia to meet. It was to be granted a charter as Lodge Polynesia No.562 Scottish Constitution.

Four years after Suva was proclaimed Fiji’s new capital in 1877, The Lodge of Fiji No.1931 EC (English Constitution) received its warrant for establishment in 1881, and has continued to meet and conduct its workings and charitable activities without interruption.

The Lodge Lautoka No. 3354 EC received its warrant in 1909, originally meeting in Lautoka, and moving to Nadi in 2003. The Foundation Master was Albert Moses Israel, a well-known personality who was born in Melbourne in 1881 and moved to Fiji to be involved in the family businesses of his Uncles, the Hon. Major Henry Marks, MLC, later Knighted, and Gabriel Marks, who became the first Mayor of Suva. Henry became the Master of The Lodge of Fiji in 1893 whilst Gabriel was Master of that same Lodge in 1905 and again in 1912. Gabriel, with his wife Marion, perished when the RMS Empress of Ireland sank in the icy waters of the Gulf of St Lawrence after colliding with the Norwegian collier Storstad in the early hours of May 29th, 1914.

In 1938, one of Albert’s brothers, (Samuel) Claude Israel, was installed as Master of The Lodge Lautoka.

Bert Israel

Bert Israel

In 2009, Anthony (Tony) Albert Israel, grandson of Albert and great-nephew of Claude, together with his brother-in-law Morris Tobias, both enthusiastic Masons, decided to join Lodge Lautoka. The Lodge’s membership had declined due many factors amongst which are the large populations of expatriates who come to Fiji to work and then depart for other overseas employment. The unease engendered by political unrest during the Fiji coup was another factor. Tony and Morris joined to be able to contribute to the Lodge’s membership and finances, thus participating as members rather than as occasional visitors. By virtue of their wide Masonic contacts in the Grand Lodge of NZ and the United Grand Lodge of Victoria, they were able to assist in the supply and replacement of much-needed regalia and furniture. Mt Scopus and Collegians Lodge No. 689, largely due to the kindness of the late Israel Rosenfield, generously donated the regalia whilst various lodges in New Zealand, thanks to Tony’s relentless search, donated the furniture necessary for the ceremonies.

Earlier this month, Tony was installed as Master of The Lodge of Lautoka in which his grandfather Bert Israel had served as Foundation Master some 106 years before. With a long Masonic history in New Zealand, having been installed into the chair of King Solomon on five occasions in three different lodges. In the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, Tony has held the rank of GS, Asst. GDC, GDC, and Asst. Prov. Grand Master. With this experienced background, Tony appears to be eminently qualified for his new role.

With three members of the Israel family having held the office of Master in the same Lodge this must be a worthy and unique milestone in Jewish Masonic history.

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