Memory Lane: Menorah Masonic Temple
Bnos Zion of Bobov has been housed in what was once Menorah Temple, which has a storied history. While the cornerstone for this majestic edifice was laid in 1927, we find that in 1929, Menorah Masonic Temple marked its 25th Anniversary. They likely organized 1904, and eventually were able to erect this building at 5000 14th Avenue. According to one account the cornerstone came from Me’aras Tzidkiyahu, located under the Damascus Gate in Yerushalayim. That cave is also known as “King Solomon’s Quarry” from where he chiseled the stones for the first Beis Hamikdash. From 1868, freemasons would continue to mine stones from there, until the Jordanians put an end to it.
The masonic lodge (association) who built this building in Boro Park got their cornerstone from there. The builder—as we can see from the accompanying photo—was Thomas I. McCabe.
To this day, when one looks up to the heights of this very tall building, the words Menorah Masonic Temple can be made out…only that about half of the letters were replaced by windows, allowing light into the classrooms where Jewish daughters learn and thrive.
We also notice a conspicuous symbol in the cornerstone, which continues to stand at the very busy intersection of 50th Street and 14th Avenue. The same symbol that is etched in the cornerstone, also appears above the doorway. What is this unique monogram which appears to be a letter “G” surrounded by an architects “precision compass” on top, and his “square” on the bottom?
After some investigation, the following becomes clear: Freemasons associations, or masonic lodges—which would represent the interests of stone masons to governments and to the public—date back to the 14th Century. Their symbol is called “the square and compass” as these are the tools that they would use in order to carve and lay the bricks with accuracy. In English-speaking countries, the ‘G’ is added, and it represents geometry (it is also said to allude to G-d).
Menorah was a famed gathering place for all kinds of banquets, testimonial dinners for all of Boro Park’s important institutions, such as Israel Zion Hospital, and Hebrew Institute of Boro Park (known as Yeshiva Eitz Chaim), Infants Home of Borough Park, and political gatherings for the gamut of causes, including presidential campaigns.
While these days it is known as “Lifshitz Halls” and is often used alongside the adjacent Ateres Golda halls for many large events, it was not long ago that “Menorah Temple” was a household name.
Ask any old Boro Park old timer and they will tell you with great nostalgia about those days when this quiet community of survivors (of the Holocaust and of America’s melting pot) celebrated so many of their simchos at Menorah Hall. It would have been especially convenient for the Young Israel which (before merging with Congregation Beth El at 15th Avenue and 48th Street) was located across the street, on 50th Street between 13th and 14th Avenues. Young Israel was possibly the most vibrant—certainly the most bustling—shul in Boro Park during the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s, and it was where the young people of Boro Park would congregate. Many of their larger events would have been held at Menorah.
For many years the caterer at Menorah was a legendary couple by the name of Reb Cheskel Shraga and Rochel Perl, who came from Kleinwardein.
They too are part of the history of this iconic institution which has stood and amassed a rich history of 90 years in Boro Park of yesteryear.