Mason honour for Taupo¯ man
At any one time, only 20 living Freemasons may hold the distinction known as The Grand Master’s Order of Service to Masonry (OSM), and the honour was recently conferred on Taupo¯ man Tony Israel.
He became a Freemason at the age of 30, and in a long career has belonged to four lodges, including a four-year stint at Lodge Lautoka 3354 in Nadi, Fiji.
Awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for being a Justice of the Peace for 37 years, he is no stranger to community work and has held roles as an honorary Department of Conservation fisheries ranger, a member of Lake Taupo¯ Search and Rescue, a wedding celebrant and is a life member of both Rotorua and Taupo¯ Aero Clubs.
Tony says that he will always be a Freemason and says he “wouldn’t have a clue” about the many hours of volunteer work he has carried out over the years.
“Just think about what the world would be like if every New Zealander put in 10 hours of voluntary work every year,” says Tony.
He says that “helping someone else”, sums up what Freemasons do. The website for New Zealand Freemasons describes the organisation as a non-profit organisation with a focus on supporting charity and carrying out community service, made up of men of good character with high ideals and worthwhile values who make a difference in the community.
Tony says that Freemasonry will surge again in New Zealand because people are looking for something meaningful.
“It’s an ancient society dating back 300 years, yet the the Freemasonry principles of kindness and care are timeless values that are very relevant today.”
Among other things, Freemasonry provides training in self development and Tony says that as a younger man his Freemasonry training enabled him to completely overcome a bad stammer, and he learnt to control a ‘short fuse’ and be more tolerant of others.
“Freemasonry offers a brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. It enables men of all races, religion and creed to meet together in harmony.”
He says that men join the Freemasons for very different reasons, and he says that it is very important to him that men can meet together.
Tony is of the Jewish faith and practices within the limits of his environment. The nearest synagogue is in Auckland.
“When Freemasons meet, two topics are forbidden, politics and religion. These are the subjects that define men, not bring them together,” he says.
The charitable arm of Freemasons is The Freemasons Charity, a registered charity under the New Zealand Charities Act. Benevolence and helping those in need has consumed a fair part of Tony’s life and he says among the many charitable gifts the Freemasons have made, memorable philanthropy was endowing a Chair at Auckland University’s Medical School for the purpose of teaching students about the needs of old people. The Lodge Kaimanawa 426, the local Taupo¯ Freemasonry lodge, also donated GPS tracking devices for people with dementia who wander away from home.
“If you are wondering why you haven’t really heard about what we do, it’s because we just quietly get on with it,” Tony says.
Tony Israel with New Zealand Freemasonry grand master Mark Winger. Tony received the OSM at a ceremony on August 20, at the Grand Lodge in Wellington.