Freemasonry is not the first word that comes to my mind when Syria or Lebanon are mentioned, but the truth is the Grand Lodge of New York established its District Grand Lodge of Syria-Lebanon in 1955, the diamond jubilee of which was celebrated recently with a visit by Grand Master Jeffrey M. Williamson. (New York Freemasons can read all about it in the current—Spring 2017—issue of The Empire State Mason Magazine, a Special Commemorative Edition marking the anniversary.) There are ten lodges comprising the District, seven of which pre-date the District’s existence, with the first two having been warranted in 1924—Syrio-American Lodge 1 and New York Lodge 2.
I think that’s kind of amazing.
Grand Master Williamson traveled extensively, visiting lodges (Suleiman 1905, El Berdawni 1907, Three Pillars 1912, and others), but also taking in the natural beauty and historic locations the land offers. There was a stop at Kahlil Gibran’s tomb, sightseeing amid the Cedars of God, a visit to the City of Ehden, a tasting at Ksara Winery—with the chance to meet RW Asaad Zogheib, mayor of Zahleh—and also time for the pleasures of the hookah!
|Courtesy The Masters Craft|
This edition of The Magpie Mason began four months ago, when Bro. John Bridegroom of the Masters Craft shared this photo on Facebook. John is the prolific creator of Masonic jewels, pins, coins, and other goods, as well as the Art Director for The Journal of the Masonic Society. I asked the Grand Master about the new medal so I could publish information about it here. He asked me to wait until publication of this issue of the ESM, so here we are.
While at the diamond jubilee celebration, MW Williamson welcomed RW Andre Layoun, PDDGM to the podium, and announced: “In commemoration and celebration of 60 years of loyalty and faithfulness demonstrated by the brethren of the District Grand Lodge of Syria-Lebanon, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York is pleased to proclaim the creation of a new Grand Lodge medal. This medal is named in honor of RW Khaled E. Tabet, the first District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of Syria-Lebanon, from 1955 to 1964.”
Writing the article in the ESM, Williamson continues:
“The award consists of a bronze top bar engraved with the words “New York.” Below the ribbon is the round bronze medallion struck with the actual likeness of RW Khaled E. Tabet. Around the medal are engraved the words “Loyalty and Faithfulness.” The medal is suspended on a distinctive red and white ribbon, along with a green stripe running through the center, symbolizing the national flag of Lebanon. This medal will be conferred by the Grand Master to any deserving member within the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, specifically for loyalty and faithfulness to our Grand Lodge.
“The first recipient of the RW Khaled E. Tabet Medal is RW Andre Layoun, who was District Grand Master for 23 years, from 1971 to 1994. His term of leadership within our District Grand Lodge was concurrent with the Lebanese Civil War, which lasted from 1975 to 1990. It is estimated that there were over 250,000 fatalities during this period. RW Andre Layoun’s loyalty to Freemasonry in general and to the Grand Lodge of the State of New York in particular has no equal.”