Potentate, EMIRAT Shrine Temple, Europe
First of all, it is a big honour to serve EMIRAT SHRINERS again as Potentate. At the same time it is a big challenge and will be a lot of work in the upcoming year. When I had been asked to accept the nomination as Potentate by many of our fellow Nobles mid of last year I was in doubt. Knowing the enormous responsibility and the time consumed by this function I had a talk with my wife, Lady Monika, first. Of course she said, what she always said in our 38years marriage: “You know what you are doing as you know what you have to do, whatever you decide, you have my blessings.”
There is a second aspect. We have an excellent line of officers and the question was, whether it wouldn’t be the term of one of the younger Nobles already serving in the Divan. As per our internal rules that would have been an option. So I had numerous talks to those qualified Nobles. Only when there was consensus that it would be best for the Order as well as for EMIRAT SHRINERS I decided to take the challenge.
Now, how do I feel after the first months in the chair? All, what was expected became reality: loads of work and tail wind to bring Shrinedom forward in Europe. I received next to congratulations an overwhelming wave of sympathy and confirmation of the needed support throughout Europe. That is encouraging and just makes me feel to have taken the right decision. But now it is time to work. My term is over the end of this year and every single day we have to accomplish a little bit.
Let us know your priorities as Potentate of the EMIRAT Shrine Temple?
The most important aspect and my No 1 priority is to make sure that we are bringing more patients into our hospitals. We all know, what the world around us looks like. We have a glimpse of an idea, how many children are suffering from diseases by birth or are victims of accidents and even worth casualties of wars and crime. Many of them we could help with the expertise and resources in our Shriners Hospitals for Children© (SHC). When visiting recently our SHC Boston I had a tour through the facility and saw numerous empty beds. I had asked my guides, Dr Driscoll (Chief Surgeon), Liza Gamelli (Social Co-Worker) and John F. Sugden (Sen. Director PR) why this would be. Their answer was astonishing as encouraging: there are not “enough” patients and the hospital can carry more patients if the Shriners would help to make the hospital more known to those who need special care.
Next to this there are a number of equally important tasks on the list. Certainly we have to continue to gain more members into Shriners. But that goes only with one other key aspect and that is to make sure that there is more knowledge about Shriners within the European Freemasonry. Every Noble should be proud about our Philanthropy, which is without doubt the most important and most impactful organisation of its kind worldwide in the space of special healthcare for children. This should be known by any apprentice entering our craft and should be the foundation for a desire to become a Shriner as soon as the way through our masonic degrees it permits.
Thirdly I do want to mention that I am a strong believer into a diverse and inclusive Europe with all its facets and differentiations. This is also applicable for Freemasonry and of course Shriners. This is why I will support our local Shrine Clubs with its specific needs and desires. We should be open for ideas how to grow and create even new Temple(s) medium to long term. Growth towards such a line could be seen along the Balkan (which would cover our Shrine activities in Romania, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and other countries) or in the midst of Europe (covering initiatives in Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia).
Finally I started to build up a strong line of officers next to the elected DIVAN, such as a team for Public Relation and Communication, Financial and Insurance as well as Legal advisors and others. This is to secure that EMIRAT SHRINERS becomes an even more vital part of our global fraternal organisation and does comply with our Shriners International as well as local rules and regulations.
Very at the end I would want to add that for me a personal priority is to continue to have a lot of fun, with all what I do as a Noble Shriner.
Since EMIRAT received its charter as Temple, do you think the Europeans (freemasons and civil society) changed in some way the perception regarding Shrine?
I very much do believe so. You can see this already pure on the constitution of our membership. We have grown in almost all regions of our continent. Interests are shown from countries like Ukraine, Slovakia, Russia and others. We see tremendous growth in Switzerland, Turkey and Greece. Our fraternal family is certainly more aware about Shriners. Evidence among other events is certainly the signature of a treaty between the Grand Lodge Suisse Alpina and EMIRAT SHRINERS.
When it comes to the civil society I strongly believe that this belongs to both the individual responsibility of each and every Noble. As we talk in the fraternal family about our Shriners’ creed with „helping kids and having fun” as we should do so to our friends and neighbours. Equally important and with much more space for growth is EMIRAT SHRINERS’ Public Relation and Communication. This is why we now have a clear responsibility in the DIVAN for this important part of our work, which lies with the Chief Rabban, Noble Marco Sodenkamp. He has assembled a great team of Nobles from all over Europe in order to make a step change. This will not only help to increase public awareness but also support our work with Sponsors and Donors.
Which is the American Shrinedom perception regarding European Shrinedom? I ask you this because the European mentality does not fit the American one.
This is a very good question. First of all there is a change as EMIRAT SHRINERS are a reality now in the Global SHRINERS family. This is the first thing you come across when speaking to American Nobles.
During my recent visit to the SHC Boston I was able to meet my colleague, Illustrious Potentate Ted Polonsky, from Aleppo Shriners. They have almost 4.000 members. Noble Ted was asking questions around our daily work as Shriners, the growth in membership and how we do „daily” things this or that way. I found it remarkable that American Nobles see us much closer to a global melting pot out of which unfortunately numerous patients are coming. Noble Ted even offered financial support to help in getting those kids into our hospitals.
Other than that the differences in „mentality” as you call it is not more or less an issue than it is in the family of Freemasons around the globe, i.e. the differences are appreciated as an advantage and are giving coloured facets to our philanthropy.
Finally it is always important to remember certain fundamental learnings from our first degrees in the craft. Our own perception about someone or something is influenced by many different things, including the information we have on the matter. In this regard I would like to come back to the importance of PR and Communications. We have to create a picture about EMIRAT SHRINERS, which reflects what we do, how and why. This will help our fellow brethren in our blue lodges, the public society around us but also the Nobles around the world to understand our work better and better.
What role do the various Clubs under EMIRAT SHRINERS play in your view?
I made already clear in my list of priorities that we can only fulfil our mission, which is to bring kids in need for special medical care into our hospitals, if we are based on strong locally active and growing clubs. Clubs are the breeding ground for future developments of the European Shrinedom.
The clubs are the only organisation in which a Noble Brother can really feel what we mean with „helping kids and having fun”. In the club he can integrate his partner, the family and friends and can lay ties for fraternal growth of his blue lodge as well as the nobility.
Finally the clubs are crucial in communicating our special care for children in need for health care, which we secure in our hospitals and the individual support of the club for local initiatives. This can range from support for schools, dormitories or other kids groups all the way to going into local hospitals as clowns.
One private question at the end. What are you doing in your spare time when not engaged with your business and EMIRAT SHRINERS?
Oh, there are many things next to the business and the Shriners. But I would highlight the one and currently most important thing, that is enjoying very moment with my 2 (soon 3) grandchildren. They are a blessing to me and Monika and are the „whipped cream” on top of our 38 years of marriage.
It is certainly a prolonging of the lines of thoughts we have as Shriners, that whatever you do good for kids is building future. And there is nothing more rewarding then a hug from a child you have helped.