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Freemasonry, Charity and Education
Leon Zeldis, FPS, 33°
PSGC, Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite for the State of Israel
Honorary Adjunct Grand Master

Editorial - Reprinted from The Israeli Freemason

An old saying — so often repeated it has become a platitude — is that if you give a man a fish you feed him for one day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for life. Let us examine for a moment the possible implications, from our Masonic perspective, of the idea behind that venerable truism.

Masons individually, and Masonic institutions collectively, make donations of millions of dollars every day, throughout the world, to many worthy causes. Whether hospitals for children, medical research, old-age homes, there is practically no area of service to the needy, the aged and the infirm which has not become the recipient of Masonic generosity.

All this is praiseworthy and deserving. And yet, one cannot avoid a nagging feeling that perhaps the allocation of our limited resources could be improved, giving more weight to those programs oriented towards future improvement at the individual and the community level rather than trying to solve immediate problems, however urgent they may be.

From this standpoint, at least, an honest evaluation of present policies and habits is long overdue. In any institution, there is a natural tendency to follow the path of least resistance, to continue doing what has been done in the past, and to perpetuate the same programs from one year to the next.

And yet, the world is changing, whether we like it or not. The needs of our grandchildren are vastly different from those of our fathers. To give just one example, it is more important for a child's future to be given a computer and taught how to use it than to get a new bike.

Unfortunately, such traits as fraternity and tolerance are not built into our genes. They must be cultivated and developed, if we want to counteract the negative influences of prejudice, fanaticism, and egoism. The naïve illusion that in time all men will naturally acknowledge the essential unity of the human race and become good to one another has been proven wrong time and again.

Of course we would like to eradicate disease, and alleviate suffering. But if we are to be true to our basic tenet: building a better world (the spiritual Temple) through better human beings (the polished ashlars), we should consider how to invest in the most useful manner our charitable funds.

Clearly, our contribution to the development of education must take a greater share of our resources than it does at present.

Supporting education, in all forms, at all levels, is investment in the future rather than problem-solving at a given moment. As Masons, we should put education at the head of our order of priorities.