What do we want? As Jews we have common goals. We want to see a peaceful, just world in which our children and grandchildren can grow and develop to their fullest capacity to live in freedom and happiness.
How do we get there? Here is where we start to have differing opinions. In an abstract way we all want to live a life of fulfillment. Many of us find such a life in religious expression. Some of us believe that the best approach may be found in the Reform Movement, some in the Reconstructionist Movement, some in the Conservative Movement and some in the Orthodox Movement. While I cannot presume to tell anyone which is the best path of religious expression I can suggest the way to bridge the gaps between us to achieve our most important goal.
We need to create a cohesive continuum of Jewish life and experience from early childhood through all life.
We need to begin this continuum at the earliest ages with an approach that will begin the process of development for our young people and give them a sense of pride and identification with Judaism. Some of this can be done in the home and the synagogue or temple but there are programs which are national in scope that will help start our children on the right path. One of those programs is the PJ Library which sends books of Jewish content to families around the country.
As our children grow and enter school they need more ways to identify with Judaism in a fun and age-appropriate way. This is where Jewish Scouting comes in. Beginning with Tiger Cubs in the First Grade, Jewish Scouting provides an organized program of tried and true development for children. A Jewish-sponsored Scout unit is “owned” by its sponsor. Subject to the principles of the Scout Oath and Law, the sponsoring organization can use its Scout unit as its own youth program. Scouting activities can be melded together with religious activities to help produce well-rounded, skilled leaders for tomorrow. With youth programs in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturing, Scouting leads the way in developing our next generation of leaders in a safe and wholesome environment, incorporating the technology of tomorrow with the fun of experiencing the outdoors. The Jewish religious emblem program of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting provides young people with the opportunity to learn about Judaism with others and obtain recognition for their achievements.
The Scouting program instills the principles of Judaism in our young people, teaching them to be, in the words of the Scout Law, “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent,” while learning leadership skills and protecting the environment, all goals found in the Torah.
The “lost age group” for Jewish development is those young people who have passed high school age and have not yet formed families of their own or begun their careers. Many of these young people are in college and join Jewish fraternities and sororities. There is a great opportunity to keep these young people connected with their Jewish roots while they are in college by associating them with our younger kids. This can be achieved by a partnership with Scouting in which fraternity and sorority members can give back to the community by providing assistance to Jewish Scout units in programming and teaching the religious emblem programs.
As our young people begin to establish their own families they will naturally gravitate toward providing service to Scouting and the Jewish community at large, taking their places as the young Jewish leaders of their communities. Their children will enter Scouting and we will have established a base for Jewish pride and connectedness around the country.
The National Jewish Committee on Scouting is committed to serving Jewish children whether they are in Jewish-sponsored units or are “lone Jewish Scouts” in non-Jewish units. We are dedicating ourselves to this process with a new emphasis on serving local Scouting programs. Here is what we are doing:
We are establishing liaisons from our committee to local council Jewish committees to provide a direct means of contact with national activities and a practical method of developing new and improved programs for local Jewish units.
We have totally revised the Jewish religious emblem program to provide Scouts with a graduated method of learning about Judaism and our heritage
We are revising older program ideas to provide Scouting units with exciting and useful activities to improve their own experience with their members
We are creating a clearinghouse for ceremonial guides and how-to approaches to Jewish activities</li>
We are providing college scholarships to Scouts for the future.
We are forming a new National Jewish Scout Association to bring Scouting alumni together and give them new ways to “give back” to Scouting
We are providing an opportunity for families to become closer together through the Scouting program. Our program involves the whole family through shared learning and experience, family camping and observances and other means.
Follow our progress on the web and in Scouting units. Let me and the other members of the National Committee know how we are doing. Give us your suggestions for what we can do to improve our service to Jewish Scouts and Scouters. Feel free to contact me here.
Bruce Chudacoff, Chairman
National Jewish Committee on Scouting