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Coupé and Leibman

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For Protestants, the Masonic cemetery was an important way to reinforce social status upon burial and forge connections with rival elites. In 1868, when Lodge Igualdad (Equality) purchased the 7,340 square meters of Mundo Novo (New World) plantation that now forms the Masonic Cemetery on Roodeweg, “higher” Protestant Masons were presented with the opportunity to reassert their class superiority. A small and stately burial plot adjacent to the main Protestant cemetery offered the separate, more exclusive burial the “higher” Protestants had not enjoyed since Governor Cantz’laar confined them to the same resting places as the Protestant rabble. It was here that in death they regained a favorable separation from non-Mason coreligionists. Moreover, the cemetery allowed them to transcend religious boundaries to reinforce alliances with other elites, such as the island’s wealthy Jewish citizens. Although Curaçao’s Jewish residents were among some of the early important Masons on the island, Jewish Freemasons had little inclination to be buried anywhere but their community’s cemetery; instead Jewish Masons used tomb decorations to call attention to Masonic status. Previous scholars have noted the popularity of Freemasonry amongst conversos, but it is worth reiterating here. As conversos began to practice Judaism openly, in some ways Masonic practice served as a substitute for the hidden (“crypto”) Judaism that they left behind on the Iberian Peninsula. Yet whereas cryptoJudaism separated conversos from Christians, the clandestine and mystical Masonic practice served to connect Jews to their non-Jewish neighbors.60 That said, Masonry was sometimes at odds with Jewish belief and practice. Religious beliefs regarding purity laws and resurrection called for burial in a Jewish cemetery, and community traditions placed a great deal of value on interment with family members. Freemasonry requires certain oaths usually deemed sacrilegious by a traditional interpretations of Jewish Law; yet, Orthodox Sephardic Rabbi Chumaceiro (1856-71) “accepted. . . Masonic ideals”61 and likewise the later orthodox Sephardic Rabbi Emmanuel (193639) asserted that “up to a certain grade masonry did not compromise one’s faith to religious beliefs or theories incompatible with Judaism.”62 With Masonic ideals understood as such, it is little wonder that Masonic symbols appeared on about ten stones at Beit Haim, Blenheim when Emmanuel conducted his research there. Several more Masonic symbols still mark graves in Beit Haim, Berg Altena, where elevated grades of Freemasonry are recorded after names like honorific titles or professional degrees (Fig. 18). Freemasonry thus emphasized an elite status that transcended differences between orthodox and reform Sephardim and to a lesser extent Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews. A handsome lodge building (now Inter-Assure Insurances) for Contentment Lodge was inaugurated in 1869 in the heart of Punda, adjacent to the Reform Sephardi Temple Emanu-él, which was finished just

Profile for Chris Davis

Markers XXVII  

Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies

Markers XXVII  

Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies

Profile for cvdavis
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