Knights of Maccabees

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Variously known as the Knights (and Ladies) of the Maccabees, Maccabees of the World, Macabees, Women’s Benefit Association.

The original early biblical Maccabees were a priestly family of Jews who organized a successful rebellion against the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV and reconsecrated the defiled Temple of Jerusalem.

In 1896, the Knights of the Maccabees had a membership of 209,831. The Knights of the Maccabees were a fraternal and benevolent “legal reserve society.”

Families of deceased members received benefits in the form of legal-reserve insurance. All white persons of sound health and good character, from birth to 70 years of age, were eligible for membership.

Their name comes from the Biblical Maccabees. The order was founded in London, Ontario in 1878 and reorganized in 1883. Before 1914, it was known as the Knights of the Maccabees.

Subsequent to 1914, it has been simply been called “The Maccabees”. At one time, about one third of membership was in Michigan. Thirty years ago, their national headquarters was located at 5057 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI.

From “History of Genesee County Michigan Vol. 1, 1916”:

Knights of the Maccabees of the World, organized originally in Canada, was incorporated in Michigan in 1884. Originally it operated on an assessment basis: whenever a member died, each living member was assessed 10 cents to go into a pot to provide the widow $1000.

After reorganization, it became much more sophisticated, collecting monthly assessments based on payouts. By the 1890s it provided not only death benefits but also sick benefits of $4 to $10/week; total and permanent disability benefits of $50, $200, or $300 annually (depending on the size of your assessment); $175-$2000 for loss of hands, eyes, feet, etc.; funeral benefits, and so on. ” Coal miners, “aeronauts” and other dangerous professions excluded.

Manufacturers sellers, and drinkers of alcohol also excluded. The Maccabees were one of the more successful of fraternal benefit societies which sprung up after the Civil War. Many insurance companies were not interested in sales to ordinary people and there was little in the way of “safety nets”. Groups like the Maccabees, Foresters, Woodmen, and so on provided a safety net along with pleasant social meetings and other gatherings. Each had its own ritual legend — the Foresters, Robin Hood, for example, and the Maccabees the story of Mattathias Maccabee and his sons, the leaders of the Jewish revolt against Syrian desecration of the Temple.

The insurance aspect of the fraternity has always been paramount. Its fraternal aspect drew on the exploits of the Jewish military genius Judas Maccabeus. The aspects of Maccabeus’s feats that appealed to the founders of the modern Maccabees were steadfastness and persistence; his wisdom in the use of power; and the fact that he seems to have been the first recorded military leader to order his soldiers to reserve a part of their spoils for the widows and orphans of their fallen colleagues.

The offices of a Tent were Commander, Lt. Commander, Knight Record Keeper, Master at Arms, Sergeant, Chaplain, Guards, Sentinel, Picket.The Maccabees conferred three degrees: Degree of Protection, Degree of Friendship, and Degree of Loyalty. In the Degree of Protection, the candidate was introduced to the demands of Honor, Courage, and Obedience.

The candidate learned the history of Maccabee household and how it protected Judea from King Antiochus during the war of independence. To prove themselves fit to “join in the cause of humanity,” the tyros had to undergo an ordeal. In the Degree of Friendship, the Commander takes the part of Mattathias, the Lt. Commander that of Judas, the Past Commander that of John (son of Mattathias), and the Chaplain that of Eleazar (son of Mattathias).

The candidate received instruction in the nature of friendship.In the Degree of Loyalty, the dramatic work revolved around the following characters: Apelles, Mattathias, Matthathias’s four sons, Judas, Soldiers, while the candidate, Sentinel, and a Knight took the parts of Jewish peasants. In keeping with the Maccabee legend of the revolt at Modin the patriarch Mattathias remained steadfast to the Jewish religion when ordered to make sacrifice to Roman gods and at great personal risk stops an apostate Jew from offering sacrifice to false gods.

The lesson derived from his example was that of genuine patriotism and inculcated the duty to uphold and defend the rights of liberty and conscience when they are threatened by irresponsible power in any form. Additionally, the candidate was reintroduced to the ghost of Eleazar and finally sees the end of the rebellion. The Maccabees converted to a life insurance company in 1962. It changed its name to The Maccabees Mutual Life Insurance Company.

The Ladies of the Maccabees were organized in the mid-1880s and not at first recognized by the Knights, but persistence paid off, and according to Albert C. Stevens, (in 1896), “Its successful career has surprised many, even among its well-wishers, and has shown that women may safely be entrusted with the conduct and management of many of the broader business affairs of life.” The Knights of the Modern Maccabees and The Maccabees of the World have since consolidated and are now known as the Maccabees.

Knights of the Maccabees – Background, History, Ritual and Emblems

The Knights of the Maccabees was founded in 1878 in London, Ontario, Canada, extensively reorganized in 1881 and 1883, and shortened its name to “The Maccabees” in 1914. The insurance aspect of the fraternity has always been paramount. Its fraternal aspect drew on the exploits of the Jewish military genius Judas Maccabeus.

The aspects of Maccabeus’s feats that appealed to the founders of the modern Maccabees were steadfastness and persistence; his wisdom in the use of power; and the fact that he seems to have been the first recorded military leader to order his soldiers to reserve a part of their spoils for the widows and orphans of their fallen colleagues.

The offices of a Tent were Commander, Lt. Commander, Knight Record Keeper, Master at Arms, Sergeant, Chaplain, Guards, Sentinel, Picket.

The Maccabees conferred three degrees: Degree of Protection, Degree of Friendship, and Degree of Loyalty.

In the Degree of Protection, the candidate was introduced to the demands of Honor, Courage, and Obedience. The candidate learned the history of Maccabee household and how it protected Judea from King Antiochus during the war of independence. To prove themselves fit to “join in the cause of humanity,” the tyros had to undergo an ordeal.

In the Degree of Friendship, the Commander takes the part of Mattathias, the Lt. Commander that of Judas, the Past Commander that of John (son of Mattathias), and the Chaplain that of Eleazar (son of Mattathias). The candidate received instruction in the nature of friendship.

In the Degree of Loyalty, the dramatic work revolved around the following characters: Apelles, Mattathias, Matthathias’s four sons, Judas, Soldiers, while the candidate, Sentinel, and a Knight took the parts of Jewish peasants. In keeping with the Maccabee legend of the revolt at Modin the patriarch Mattathias remained steadfast to the Jewish religion when ordered to make sacrifice to Roman gods and at great personal risk stops an apostate Jew from offering sacrifice to false gods. The lesson derived from his example was that of genuine patriotism and inculcated the duty to uphold and defend the rights of liberty and conscience when they are threatened by irresponsible power in any form. Additionally, the candidate was reintroduced to the ghost of Eleazar and finally sees the end of the rebellion.

The Knights of the Maccabees Uniform Rank was called the Mystic Circle Degree. The members of the Uniform Rank met in a body styled an armory. It was said, “The Uniform Rank is not a highter degree of Maccabeeism. Rather it is to be compared to the pioneers and skirmishers of a large army, whose duty it is to clear the way and develop the enemy, so great battles can be won by those who follow you.” (Ritual of the Mystic Circle Degree, Uniform Rank (1903).)

The Uniform Rank was much less dramatic than the Tent Degree’s that proceeded it. The first section of the Uniform Rank degree involved the staged debate between the First and Second Guards as to whether “this candidate be merely obligated, and the regular initiation be omitted.” Id. The lessons of the Uniform Rank were obedience and courage.

This was taught by the Captain commanding the newly created Sir Knight to place his bare right hand into a box containing an unknown object, and to bring the “snake” inside the box to the Captain. The officers of a Maccabee Uniform Rank armory were the Captain, First Lieutenant, Second Lieutenant, Record Keeper, Assistant Record Keeper, Chaplain, First Guard, Second Guard, First Sergeant (inner sentinel), Second Sergeant (outer sentinel).

The Maccabees converted to a life insurance company in 1962. It changed its name to The Maccabees Mutual Life Insurance Company.

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Last updated: April 30, 2014 at 13:30 pm

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