I don’t remember much about my maternal grandfather Joseph Tarlowski, who died in 1953. He left us his burgundy fez Shriner’s hat and gold ring, which mysteriously has the Hebrew letter yud in the center. It was interesting that in the deep South like LaGrange and Columbus, Ga., he was welcomed into a non-Jewish club on the one hand, and on the other, a KKK cross was burned on his front lawn.
Jewish Masons and Shriners still carry on the tradition today. Note that all Shriners have to be Masons first, but not all Masons become Shriners. Sandy Springs resident and Master Mason Tom Greenfield, whose father and grandfather were Masons, has recruited his son Michael, where they belong to Fulton Lodge #216 across from the Amtrak train station on Peachtree Street in Buckhead.
New generation son Michael engineers his lodge’s social media and has 800 followers on this Facebook page, where he posts biographies of famous previous Masons from this lodge, famous astronauts who were Masons, and the 14 U.S. presidents who were Masons. Freemasonry is the world’s oldest fraternal organization and has been in its modern form for 300 years. King Solomon was a Mason.
“I’m still on the first level, but I find the topic interesting in a historical context and have done a good bit of reading on it. I’m an Entered Apprentice and the youngest guy by 20 years, which is one reason why I love going – it makes me feel young!”
Get the details here from Tom, a Master Mason.
AJT: What about the Masons inspired you to get Michael involved?
Tom: Both my father and my grandfather were Masons in New York. In 1986, I joined Fulton Lodge #216 in Atlanta. Michael wanted to continue this legacy.
AJT: What makes your organization different from Rotary or other civic organizations?
Tom: We are not a civic organization. Masonry is a fraternity that takes good men and makes them better, so they can go out and do good things.
AJT: How did Fulton Lodge #216 evolve into a predominantly Jewish chapter?
Tom: Fulton Lodge was founded in 1857 by a group of men who were largely Jewish. Shortly thereafter, they also founded The Temple. The original rabbi of The Temple was a Mason. The lodge has remained largely Jewish. However, we do have many non-Jewish members.
AJT: How long does it take to become a Master Mason?
Tom: One first joins as an Entered Apprentice. Then one becomes a Fellowcraft Mason, and lastly, one becomes a Master Mason. The whole journey can be done in three to six months.
AJT: What is the difference between a Mason and a Shriner?
Tom: In order to be a Shriner, you must first be a Master Mason. The Shriners were founded by Masons as a way to encourage good fellowship in 1871. They did not become involved with hospitals until 1922, when the Shriners Hospital opened.
AJT: What is the origin of the word “mason?”
Tom: Masons were a guild of building trade workers: carpenters, brick layers, architects, etc., who began meeting.
AJT: Who are some memorable speakers you have had at your meetings?
Tom: Governor Roy Barnes and Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.
AJT: Who can become a Mason?
Tom: Any man can join who is over 18 years old, believes in a supreme being and is of good character. Masonry does not solicit members. You become a Mason by asking any other Mason questions about joining a lodge. This starts the process.
AJT: Like the Boy Scouts, how can you keep women out?
Tom: Freemasonry is a fraternity; and fraternities can exclude women just like sororities can exclude men.
Remember the expression “give someone the third degree” ie. “question” them comes from the Masons.