(November 18, 2015 / JNS)
At the recent Union for Reform Judaism biennial convention, the staff and delegates were audaciously hospitable to the National Jewish Committee on Scouting. This was the first Reform convention the Boy Scouts of America had been invited to participate in since membership and leadership standards were changed to become more inclusive.
The Reform movement has welcomed Scouting back into the fold. Hundreds of delegates stopped at our Scouting booth to tell us how grateful they are for the changes Scouting has made and for coming back to them. Many delegates embraced the Jewish religious emblem program and are taking it back to their congregations to engage them in a dialogue which will lead to the creation of new Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, and Venturing crews.
My vision is that all Jewish organizations will begin to work together and share the responsibility of participating in an overall continuum of the development of our biggest resource—our children—to benefit the entire community.
Our youngest Jewish children will continue to be guided by their parents with the help of their synagogues, temples, and JCCs with a view toward inculcating in them a basic knowledge of Judaism and the tools to develop self-esteem and self-reliance. Parents will use existing programs such as PJ Library to assist their children in the early stages of development.
Jewish boys entering kindergarten and 1st grade will have the opportunity to join the Tiger Cub and Cub Scout programs of the Boy Scouts of America as well as parallel programs of the Girl Scouts of America. They will begin to develop leadership skills, lifelong friendships, and social skills, as well as a more comprehensive grounding in Judaism through our religious emblem program. Partnerships with synagogues, temples, Chabad Houses, JCCs, Hadassah, the Jewish War Veterans, and Jewish Federations, in addition to such groups as PJ Our Way, Jewish fraternities and sororities, and others, can advance their Jewish identities as they grow older.
As young Jewish teens reach 14, the eligible age for Venturing, they can join together to further develop their skills and Jewish relationships as they experience the fun of high adventure. Existing youth chapters of BBYO, NCSY, NFTY, or USY can join Venturing to obtain the benefits of their national organizations and Scouting together.
We need to encourage our young people to remain connected to Judaism as they go out into the world after high school. As young adults, they can bring energy and enthusiasm to our Jewish communities through participation as young leaders. Utilizing such programs as Birthright Israel and gap year programs in Israel, they can solidify their relationship with our homeland.
As our young adults begin to marry and have families of their own, they will have had the positive experience of association with our organizations and will be more likely to remain actively involved in Jewish life as they begin the process of establishing themselves as the volunteers and leaders of their own Jewish organizations.
This week, the National Jewish Committee on Scouting participates at the Conservative movement’s convention. The theme of that convention is “Shape the Center.” Scouting will take its place with the Conservative movement in shaping the center and moving forward. I anticipate the same hospitable reception we received from the Reform movement and the same kind of enthusiastic leaders who will help us create and develop young Jews into tomorrow’s leaders
I believe Scouting is the one organization that can provide the glue to cement the future of Jewish development in America. We can act as a bridge to all different Jewish organizations and programs to bring us all together for a better future.
Bruce Chudacoff is the chairman of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting and a retired attorney-at-law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.