Vol. XLV No. 3 — March 1967

Jewish Grand Masters in the United States Since 1910

David Redlus, PM

This Short Talk Bulletin is the work of Worshipful Brother David Redlus, past master of Mizpah Lodge No. 245, Camden, New Jersey, who graciously consented to its publication in this form.

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How many grand masters of United States grand lodges have been Jews? This question has long interested the writer of this survey. Comparatively little research has been done in this area.

In 1910 a comprehensive survey by Samuel Oppenheim, entitled “The Jew and Masonry in the United States Before 1810,” was published in American Jewish Historical Society No. 19. In the same issue, by a curious coincidence, there appeared a second article about Jewish Masons: “A List of Jews Who Were Grand Masters in Various States of this Country,” written by Albert M. Friedenberg. It contained no supporting data, but (with a few corrections of dates and names supplied by the editor of The Masonic Service Association) it was as follows:

Alabama —
Benjamin M. Jacobs 1905-06
Arizona —
Morris Goldwater 1888
Arkansas —
Jacob Trieber 1906
Dakota —
Territory William Blatt 1885-86
Florida —
Marcus Endel 1893
Georgia —
Max Meyerhardt 1901-07 (7 years)
Illinois —
Abraham Jonas 1840-41 (also served Kentucky)
Kentucky —
Abraham Jonas 1833-34 (also served Illinois)
Louisiana —
Edwin Marks 1879-80
Massachusetts (Independent GL)
Moses M. Hayes 1788-92
Mississippi —
Charles H. Blum 1906
New York (Phillips GL)—
Isaac Phillips 1849-54
Pennsylvania —
Henry M. Phillips 1859-60
Rhode Island —
Moses Seixas 1802-08 (7 years)
Henry Sampson 1858
N. M. Washer 1900
Virginia —
Solomon Jacobs 1810-12 (3 years)

To obtain up-to-date answers to the question of the leadership role played by Jews in American Masonry, this writer embarked on a modest research project by means of correspondence and investigation. Information gained from this research is presented in the following biographical sketches. (The grand masters appear in alphabetical order.)

BERNARD BENNETT ABEDON (b. 1905; d. 1991) Son of Harry and Jennie Abedon. 99th grand master of Masons in Rhode Island, 1954. Lawyer; admitted to Rhode Island Bar in 1928.

Educated in Providence public schools. Attended Boston University College of Business Administration, Boston, Mass., before entering law school of that institution. Graduated LL.B, 1928. Became member of Federal Court, 1929. Member, R.I. Bar Association; served as chairman of the executive board. Also member, United States Judicature Society. Served as Chief Crier of R.I. Town Criers, one of the largest civic organizations in the state. Advisor to Draft Board No. 11 (1942-1944) and member of Appeal Board of R.I. of Federal Rent Control Board. Member, Board of Governors, Big Brothers of R.I., and of R.I. Multiple Sclerosis Society. Former Governor John O. Pastore appointed him to United Nations committee.

Made Master Mason in Redwood Lodge No. 35, Providence, January 14, 1929. Worshipful master, 1941. Appointed district deputy, May 19, 1947, and served in various Masonic districts until his election as junior grand warden, May 21, 1951. 1952, elected senior grand warden; 1953, deputy grand master, becoming grand master, May 17, 1954. Served as grand lecturer, President of Freemason Hall Company, and chairman, Masonic Education Forum.

Appointed first chairman of Masonic Youth Foundation of Grand Lodge of Rhode Island on its inception in 1951. When this organization became a separate corporation (1962), he was elected to its Board of Directors. February 4, 1967, he was elected its President. Active Member at large, International Supreme Council, Order of DeMolay; also honorary Legionnaire of Honor. Member, Providence Chapter No. 1, R.A.M.; Rhode Island Consistory; Palestine Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S.; and Moslem Grotto, M.O.V.P.E.R. Honorary Member, United lodge, Brookline, MA. Coroneted 33° honorary, A.A.S.R., at Buffalo, NY, 1959. His Masonic achievements have been honored by award of Distinguished Service medals: the Henry Price Medal (Massachusetts), Pierpont Edwards Medal (Connecticut), and Grand Lodge Service Medal (Rhode Island).

Brother Abedon was a member of Temple Emanu-El, Providence; vice-president of its men’s club. On Board of Directors, Jewish Home for the Aged of Rhode Island.

June 8, 1927, he married Anna B. Seidman. Two sons: Herbert Joseph Abedon, Harvard and University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate; and Richard Lloyd Abedon, Colby College graduate. Both sons associated with their father in the practice of law.

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ROBERT L. ARONSON (b. 1907; d. 1969) An honor graduate of the Law School of Washington University; grand master of Missouri in 1958-1959. Awarded a distinguished alumni citation by his university; member of Coif, honorary legal fraternity. Aronson was a member of the circuit bench since 1938, and was very active in Missouri judicial affairs. An energetic participant in his congregation, the United Hebrew Temple, he has been prominent in fostering brotherhood and inter-faith movements. Was also President of District No. 2, Order of B’nai B’rith.

Robert Aronson was considered one of Missouri’s most active past grand masters. It was his honor to present former President Truman with his fifty-year gold pin. He was master of St. Louis Lodge No. 20 in 1941, was a member of the Scottish Rite Bodies in St. Louis, and was coroneted Honorary 33° in 1959. He was the father of one son.

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PERCY HENRY BENNETT (b. 1900; d. 1961) Native of Boston, Massachusetts; son of Harry and Ida Bennett. A 1919 graduate of Harvard University; a veteran of World War I; became a certified public accountant in New York City, 1927. He later established the largest accounting practice in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Brother Bennett was raised in Lafayette Lodge No. 41, Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1930; worshipful master, 1946 and 1947. In 1954, served as grand master of the Grand Council, R. & S.M., of New Hampshire. In 1959-61, while serving the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire as grand master, he was also Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter, R.A.M. of New Hampshire. He held membership in Trinity Commandery, K.T.; New Hampshire Consistory, A.A.S.R.; and was a charter member of Granite State Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine.

Among Masonic awards to Percy Bennett were the Jeremy L. Cross Medal, highest award of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire; the Christopher Champlin Medal, from the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island for outstanding Masonic service; and the Pierpont Edwards Medal, awarded by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut for distinguished Masonic service.

An ardent civic worker, he was chairman of the Finance Commission of the City of Manchester, a president of the Kiwanis Club, and a president of the Civic Music Association of Manchester. Also a member of the Congregation Adath Yeshurun and a Past President of the Jewish Community Center. Married to the former Sigrid Ericksen; they were the parents of a son, Richard E., and a daughter, Patricia. Funeral services for Brother Bennett were held in the Manchester Masonic Temple; both a Protestant clergyman and a Rabbi officiated.

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ALFRED F. BRESLAUER (b. 1898) A native Californian; was graduated from Lowell High School, San Francisco, University of California, and Boalt Hall of Law; admitted to the California bar in 1922.

Raised in Starr King Lodge No. 344, 1923. Elected worshipful master, 1930. Appointed Inspector, 43rd Masonic District; served on Grand Lodge Grievances Committee; trustee of the Masonic Homes of California. Elected deputy grand master, 1960, and grand master, 1961. Author of The Master’s Handbook. Served as venerable master, Lodge of Perfection, as wise master, Rose Croix, and coroneted 33° honorary.

He married Marian Joseph, 1931; they had a daughter and son. After death of first wife, he married Margaret Slate. This union produced one son.

Alfred Breslauer co-authored the California Small Loan Act; member of administrative committee, California state Bar Association; Commonwealth Club of California; Public Education Society; and California Historical Society. Also served for thirty years as teacher and Superintendent of Sherith Israel Religious School.

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HAROLD CLINE (b. 1903; d. 1963) Attorney; made Master Mason in Albert Pike Lodge No. 14, Milford, Utah. Masonic career was varied and dedicated. Three times master of his lodge, a member of the Scottish Rite, a Shriner, and a 33° Mason. In 1947 he became grand master of Masons in Utah. Also devoted much time and energy to the Crippled Children’s Hospital and The Masonic Service Association. Member of the B’nai B’rith in Salt Lake City, as well as of that city’s Jewish Community Center; and active member of the Zionist Organization of America.

Two of Harold Cline’s brothers were also worshipful masters of Masonic lodges.

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CLARENCE HENRY COHEN (b. 1901; d. 1979) Native of New York City, one of three sons of Isaac Harris Cohen and Adeline Brady Levy Cohen. Graduate of the University of Georgia; past master of Webbs Lodge No. 166, Augusta, Georgia; past grand lecturer; and grand master of Georgia in 1961-62. He served as High Priest of Augusta Chapter No. 2, R.A.M. and as illustrious master of Adoniram Council No. 1, R. & S.M. He also had the distinction of being coroneted with the Honorary 33°.

A veteran of World War I, Brother Clarence Cohen is a Past President of Fort Gordon Chapter No. 162, National Sojourners; a member of the American Legion; D.A.V.; and V.F.W. Member of the Congregation Children of Israel, Augusta, Georgia. Clarence Cohen and his wife, Rhode Green Cohen, had two children, Betty and Clarence, Jr.

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JACOB LAMPERT (b. 1856; d. 1921) Born in London; emigrated at an early age to America with his parents, Moses and Esther Lampert. When he was twelve, he became an apprentice cigar maker; in 1884 started his own business, eventually becoming the largest cigar manufacturer in St. Louis, Missouri. One of twelve children, his devotion to his family was so great that he never married.

He entered Itaska Lodge No. 420 in 1878, becoming worshipful master in 1885, and had the rare privilege of raising his father during that year. As a member of the Moolah Shrine Temple he organized their orchestra and played first violin.

Brother Lampert received his first grand lodge appointment, district deputy grand master, in 1905; was elected grand master of Missouri in 1912. The Masonic Home for the Aged was the prime recipient of his time, money, and efforts. In a eulogy Dorsey A. Jamison said, “He was a man who honored his God, his parents and his fellowman, as a true Mason.”

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PHILLIP LIEBER (b. 1888; d. 1977) Made Master Mason in Shreveport Lodge No. 115, 1914. Progressed rapidly through Masonic offices; worshipful master of his lodge, 1919. Became grand master of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana in 1935. He is a distinguished member of his community as well as an outstanding Mason. A building and loan executive, he has been active in professional organizations, in his community’s cultural and commercial programs, and in Jewish religious and fraternal groups. He is a member of the Reform Jewish Synagogue of Shreveport and B’nai B’rith. He and his wife, the former Clara Lowenstein, were the parents of five children.

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HARRY H. MARGOLIN (b. 1895; d. 1971) A native of Sioux City, Iowa, grand master of South Dakota in 1949. Margolin, a merchant, received the Master Mason Degree in Dale Lodge No. 456, Hawarden, Iowa, in 1910. Later demitted and affiliated with St. Andrews Lodge No. 208, Yankton, South Dakota. Member of Oriental Consistory, where he received the 32°, Margolin was also a member of the El Riad Shrine, Past Patron of the Order of the Eastern Star, and was honored with the 33° in 1947 at Omaha, Nebraska. He was the Sovereign Grand Inspector General (for South Dakota) of the Supreme Council 33°, A. & A.S.R., Southern Jurisdiction.

Harry Margolin served as an officer in the U.S. Navy during World War I. He was married to the former Corinne B. Rothchild; they had two daughters. He was a member of the Shaare Zion Temple, Sioux City, Iowa.

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BARNETT ELLIS MARKS (b. 1880; d. 1971) grand master of Arizona, 1937-38. Admitted to the bar, 1906. Master Mason, 1907. Instrumental in forming Silver Trowel Lodge No. 29, Phoenix, Arizona; worshipful master in 1923. His rise to prominence in the grand lodge began shortly afterward. Coronetted 33°, 1950; Shriner; in 1928, worthy patron of the Arizona Order of the Eastern Star. Marks also organized the Hiram Club idea and was first president, 1923. Master Builder of Hiram International in 1925.

In addition to many Masonic activities, Brother Marks had diversified interests: a Past President of Phoenix B’nai B’rith; Past President of Congregation Beth Israel; member, American Jewish Committee from Arizona for many years. President, Arizona Society for Crippled Children. During World War I was a “Four Minute Man,” and member of The Fuel Administration.

His fraternal, political, and civic interests were shared by his wife Freeda. Their sons became Master Masons in Silver Trowel Lodge No. 29.

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JACOB STOLL NEW (b. 1885; d. 1964) Baltimore-born lawyer; member of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. New was chairman of the grand lodge committee on grievances in 1945; held grand lodge offices every year thereafter until he became grand master, 1950-52. Masonic career began in 1907, when he was raised in Arcana Lodge No. 110, becoming worshipful master in 1917. Vice President of the Bar Associations of Baltimore and Maryland. During both World Wars he was a member of the Legal Advisory Board. He was married to the former Kathryn Merrick.

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HARRY OSTROV (b. 1904; d. 1994) An attorney, who served as grand master of Masons in New York from May 1962 to May 1964. Raised in Dirigo Lodge No. 30, April 1927; became a charter member by dual membership in Guiding Light Lodge No. 1115. Was worshipful master of Dirigo lodge in 1939 and again in 1944. Beginning in 1945 he was consistently active in grand lodge, serving as district deputy grand master for the 1st Manhattan District, member of the committee on boards of relief and employment bureaus, committee on Masonic education and lodge service, committee on restorations, grand treasurer, and deputy grand master. As a member of the Scottish Rite Bodies of New York City, he was thrice potent master, lodge of Perfection, Commander-in-Chief, and was coronetted Honorary 33° September 29, 1954. Also member of DeMolay Legion of Honor. Ostrov and his wife (the former Juliette Marbes) were the parents of two sons and two daughters.

Harry Ostrov was the recipient of the Waldemar Medical Research Foundation Award, for “vision and ceaseless dedication to the betterment of human-kind”; the first Moses Maimonides Brotherhood Award, for “exemplification of the spirit of brotherhood in Masonry”; and the Annual Interfaith Award, “in recognition of outstanding achievement in attaining the highest ideals of Goodwill, Tolerance, Understanding and Mutual Respect.”

From 1951 until 1953 Brother Ostrov served as President of the Central Synagogue of Nassau County; and trustee of that institution since 1943. Member of Rocklyn lodge B’nai B’rith. Trustee of New York Law School. President of the Masonic Brotherhood Foundation, Inc., under whose auspices was sponsored the Masonic Brotherhood Center at the New York World's Fair in 1964 and 1965 (April 1964 STB).

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SIMON H. RUBEL (b. 1879; d. 1956) Merchant of Corinth, Mississippi, grand master of Mississippi, 1935. Rubel had a long and productive career in Masonry from the time that he received the Master Mason Degree in 1901 in Corinth Lodge No. 116. In same year, became a member of Corinth Chapter No. 76, Royal Arch Masons. Joined Albert Pike Consistory and Hamasa Shrine Temple in 1903. He was active in Barney Trice Council No. 48, R. & S.M., Corinth. Among his other Masonic interests, he was grand lodge Representative for New York, Grand Representative of Grand Council, R. & S.M., honorary member of Centennial Lodge No. 763, as well as member of the Grand Council of DeMolay. He also became an Honorary 33°, A.&A.S.R. Rubel married Ricca Isaacson in 1925; they had one daughter.

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HARRIS SAMONISKY (b. 1895; d. 1951) Son of Max and Lena Samonisky. A native of Delaware City, Delaware; graduate of University of Delaware. Before joining the State Department for Voice of America, he was for many years city editor for the News-Journal Company of Delaware.

Became Master Mason in Jackson Lodge No. 19, Delaware City, in 1917; worshipful master, 1922. Elected grand master of Delaware in 1935. Served as President of the Grand Masters Association. Member of the Sojourners and Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He was a member of Temple Beth Sholom and B’nai B’rith.

Highlight of Brother Samonisky’s civic career was his appointment by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to serve on the tercentenary committee, commemorating the landing of the Swedes in Delaware. He and his wife Mina had one son, Byron.

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MORRIS SHAPIRO (b. 1910; d. 2005) Native of Newark, New Jersey, grand master of Louisiana in 1961. He moved to Alexandria, Louisiana, at an early age and received his LL.B, degree from Tulane University. Practiced law in Louisiana, having served his state as Special Assistant Attorney General.

Shapiro was a member of Congregation Gemilut Chassodim, Alexandria, and has been a member of its board of trustees. He and Mrs. Shapiro (formerly Mary Fern Clyde) had five children.

Brother Shapiro has participated in many civic and Masonic projects. Received degrees in Oliver Lodge No. 84, 1932; worshipful master in 1937. Member of Shreveport Consistory, A. & A.S.R.; Royal Arch Masons; and the Shrine. Was active in many Masonic capacities, including attorney for the Masonic Home for Children.

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JOSEPH SINAI (b. 1875; d. 1925) grand master of Louisiana in 1923. A gifted child, he was valedictorian of his class at Aloysius College at age sixteen. Practiced law in New Orleans. Initiated into Alpha Home Lodge No. 72,1906. At his death, M.W. Haney B. Connor said, “No man worked more zealously or ardently for the interest of Freemasonry.”

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KARL M. VETSBURG (b. 1879; d. 1953) Attorney, born in Jefferson City, Missouri; became grand master of that state in 1939. Made a Master Mason in Cornerstone Lodge No. 235, St. Louis, in 1907; and was elected master six years later. In 1914, he received his first grand lodge appointment, district lecturer. Subsequently served as district deputy grand master and grand orator. Karl Vetsburg had the rare pleasure and privilege of obligating and installing as his successor grand master of Missouri, a man who was to become President of the United States, Harry S. Truman.

His interests were not confined to Masonic circles alone; he was a member of Temple Israel, a Past President of the Y.M.H.A., and of the Missouri Lodge B’nai B’rith of St. Louis.

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EDWIN J. WITTELSHOFER (b. 1883; d. 1961) Grand master of Colorado, 1949-50.

Made Master Mason, 1920, Columbine Lodge No. 147, Denver; master in 1927. Member, A. & A.S.R., K.C.C.H. Wittelshofer, an attorney, was Vice-President of the Denver Bar Association; and member, Board of Governors, Colorado State Bar Association. President of B’nai B’rith and member, Board of Directors, National Home for Jewish Children. Also, a Past President, Central Jewish Aid Society. Other welfare, religious, and fraternal organizations also received the benefit of his vigorous leadership.

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BENJAMIN Y. WOLF (b. 1882; d. 1957) Third Jewish grand master of Louisiana in recent years, elected in 1943. An attorney, Brother Wolf took a lively interest in his Bar Association. Friends of Harmony Lodge No. 58, New Orleans, raised him in 1904; twice master of that lodge, 1910 and 1916. He was also an officer of the Shrine.

Benjamin Wolf combined his legal knowledge with his interest in Freemasonry by working for many years on such grand lodge committees as Masonic law and jurisprudence and the constitution committee. Attorney for grand lodge, 1933-34.

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CHARLES MAURICE WOLLENBERG (b. 1873; d. 1962) A pharmacist by profession; devoted large part of his adult life to public and private works of welfare for the poor. Graduate, University of California at Berkeley. Selected by Red Cross to head relief and refugee camps, established in wake of San Francisco earthquake and fire, 1906.

He joined Starr King Lodge No. 344,1906. Elected grand master of California, 1929.

His Masonic appointments reflected his great love of people and his talent for helping the needy. President, board of trustees of Masonic Homes of California many years. Especially interested in Masonic Home for Aged at Decoto, where the hospital has been rededicated as the Charles Wollenberg Memorial Hospital. The youngsters in the Children’s Home at Covina also benefited from his personal interest.

In addition to professional duties as Superintendent of Public Relief, his volunteer work included Director of the San Francisco Chapter of the Red Cross; President of the Social Workers Alliance; chairman of the budget committee of the Community Chest; Director of the Hebrew Nursing Home; Director of Mt. Zion Hospital, as well as one of the founders of the Mai- monides Health Center.

His wife (the former Romilda Judell) was an interested and sympathetic participant in her husband’s civic and charitable endeavors. He participated in the degree work at the time his sons Albert, Harold, and Ralph were made Master Masons. He was particularly gratified to participate in the raising of his grandsons, Albert Wollenberg, Jr., and Harold Wollenberg, Jr.

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DEWEY H. WOLLSTEIN (b. 1898; d. 1971) Editor, the Masonic Messenger, official publication of Grand Lodge of Georgia; grand master of Georgia in 1943. Became Master Mason in 1925, Cherokee Lodge No. 66, Rome, Georgia. Member, Scottish Rite Bodies, Valley of Atlanta; 33° honorary. Author of several Masonic books.

The grand masters of the Jewish faith have left a proud heritage of devotion and service behind them. For the most part they have been men whose influence has been far-reaching in Masonry as well as in civic, fraternal, and religious affairs.


Since the publication of this Short Talk Bulletin, thirteen more grand masters of the Jewish faith are known to have occupied the Grand East. Their biographical sketches are on file at The Masonic Service Association.

Connecticut —
Morris I. Budkofsky (1980)
District of Columbia —
Milton D. Korman (1969)
N. Norman Engleberg (1972)
Iowa —
Joseph Z. Marks (1974)
Maryland —
Bernard E. Rothman (1981)
Michigan —
Ronald Schwartz (1978)
Minnesota —
Joseph L. Seltzer (1968)
New Jersey —
Malcolm B. Wernik (1964)
New York —
Arthur Markewich (1975)
North Carolina —
Berl M. Kahn (1971)
Oregon —
Martin S. Sichel (1971)
Rhode Island —
Malcolm C. Bromberg (1975)
Virginia —
Seymour Jonas Levy (1975)

The Masonic Service Association of North America