An Old and Progressive Hebrew Charitable Order: Free Sons of Israel

It Began in 1849 to Aid Refugees: Its History
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Ephraim Lodge No. 16

The third was Ephraim No. 16, which organized October 29, 1865. At that period the order had grown to a brotherhood of 1,520 men, with a capital of $48,251.71. Its benevolence had won it a reputation throughout the Union.

The Free Sons in Philadelphia had prospered so well during the first year that in the
following year two more lodges were installed in that city.

Menasse Lodge No. 17

Menasse Lodge No. 17, was installed on February 18, 1866.

Moses Lodge No. 18

They were Moses Lodge No. 18, which was instituted February 18, 1866.

Isaiah Lodge No. 22

Washington, D.C., was the next city to fall into the ranks, where May 27, 1867, Isaiah Lodge No. 22 was instituted. The condition of the order in 1869 was 2,095 members and a capital of $65,718.95. That year the first lodge in Boston, Mass., was installed.

For several years thereafter there was discussion on the subject of establishing an endowment fund for widows and orphans. At every subsequent Grand Lodge session this subject caused much heated debate, and a strong fight was made by the friends of the life insurance question. Finally the endowment clause was added to the Grand Lodge Constitution, and on March 5, 1871,
the law went into effect. Thus the widow and orphans of a deceased member became entitled to receive $1,000 besides monthly benefits.

When the Endowment Fund was established the order suffered some loss of membership, there being many who doubted the feasibility of the plan. Its extraordinary prosperity is  n reality due to the introduction of the fund. It took only a very brief time to demonstrate the efficacy of the insurance department, and then the ranks of the order were speedily increased. This was shown in the report made to the Grand Lodge April 4, 1872, when there were 2,176 names on its rolls and the capital had reached $69,604.40.

Within the next three years the order spread its influence over the entire United States, and since 1875 there have been lodges springing into existence from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as well as from the lakes to the Gulf. At the session of the Grand Lodge in 1875 the report showed that there were forty-seven lodges of men and six of women, with a total membership of 4,655, a capital of $95,229.50 and a reserve fund of $5,883.13. The growth during the next decade made necessary the establishment of District Grand Lodges, which met annually, while the Grand Lodge of the United States, as the highest body of the order is named, met once in three years. District Grand Lodge No. 1 comprised the States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. District No. 2 was composed of all of the Western States. The remainder of the States and Territories are under the direct jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the United States. The statistics show that in 1882 the order had a total membership of 10,279 and the capital had reached the sum of $248,599.39.

Continued prosperity in all its branches favored the Independent Order of Free Sons of Israel to such an extent that in 1889 there was a total membership of 12,649, a capital of $354,513.15, and a reserve fund of $147,039.38. Onward and upward has been the development of the order, so that today it is one of the foremost Jewish orders of the world.

The Chairman of the Committee on Endowment, William A. Gans of this city, is the custodian of the moneys for widows and orphans, and since he has been placed in charge of this department he has signed checks to the amount of $2,300,000. Mr. Gans is a native of this city, and is prominent in most of the local Hebrew charities ties.

Grand Secretary Goldsmith of this city, who has the entire affairs of the organization at his finger's ends, so to speak, was born in New York; and from his fifteenth year he was the assistant of his father, whom he succeeded as Grand Secretary upon his death in 1891. Mr. Goldsmith became a member of the order in 1886, when he joined Reuben Lodge. He is an active worker in the B'nai B'rith and all of the local Hebrew charities.

The only survivor of the original band of founders is Isaac Hamburger, who still resides in New York. Mr. Hamburger was born in Germany in 1828, and came to America in 1848. One year after his arrival in New York he assisted in calling into life Reuben Lodge, the first of the Independent Order of Free Sons of Israel. In his own lodge he has held every office, and in the Grand Lodge he has been one of the foremost personages. He was the Grand Master of the order for the eighteen years from 1874 to 1892, and was only released from this post upon positively declining a re-election. At the session of the Grand Lodge in 1892 he was elected an honorary, member of the Executive Committee for life, and in recognition of his valuable services was presented with a marble statue of a widow and an orphan, the emblem of the order. Mr. Hamburger is also an honored member of the B'nai B'rith, in which he has received high honors.

He assisted in the organization of the Institution for Improved Instruction of Deaf Mutes in 1876. This institute first introduced the method of instructing the mutes by lip reading, and was founded and maintained by private citizens. At present it is a State institution. He is also a Trustee of the Temple Beth El, and a member of the Mount Sinai Hospital, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, the Home for Aged and Infirm, the Montefiore Home, the Hebrew Technical Institute, the Hebrew Free School, and many other organizations.

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Website: The History
Article Name: An Old and Progressive Hebrew Charitable Order: Free Sons of Israel
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


New York Times April 7, 1895 p.16 (1 page)
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