Bill Scanlan, the district executive for the Boy Scouts of America region that includes the Five Towns, told a crowd of parents that character development is one of three core Cub Scout values, in addition to physical fitness and citizenship.
Scanlan spoke at a meeting hosted by the Marion & Aaron Gural Jewish Community Center on Feb. 13. The Cedarhurst-based JCC is sponsoring the new Cub Scout Pack 1818, and possibly a Boy Scout troop, geared towards accommodating Orthodox Jewish boys. Last week’s meeting was planned as a fact-finding mission to gauge the community’s interest and to figure out how the pack can best accommodate everyone. Attendees seemed to agree that Sunday afternoons and evenings would be the best time to meet, between Shabbat, school and other activities.
A study conducted by Tufts University and the Boy Scouts of America from 2013 to 2015 found that through the interviews and surveys of 1,800 Cub Scouts and 400 non-scouts in the Philadelphia area. That the scouts were more likely to be hopeful, helpful, obedient, cheerful and kind as opposed to non-scouts.
Batsheva From-Altman, the mother of a 5-year-old boy, said she was disappointed that any dens — groups of Cub Scouts — she looked into met in churches or on Saturdays, making it difficult for Orthodox Jews to take part and learn these skills. This led her to contact the JCC and the Boy Scouts, initiating an effort to gauge community interest.
“One of the reasons I approached the JCC was that I didn’t want to be associated with any one synagogue or one particular school,” From-Altman explained. “I wanted it to be very diversified and very open and very welcoming and very inclusive, so I specifically reached out to a neighborhood organization.”
She said she heard from a Far Rockaway resident who was interested in getting her son involved, and Rachayle Deutsch, the JCC’s cultural arts and education director, said that people from as far as Belle Harbor had contacted her about signing their kids up. “I don’t know how many will come, but many have called,” Deutsch said before the meeting.
Roughly two dozen parents showed up. Aliza Berkovics, one of the first to arrive, is the mother of a 10-year-old. She said that scouting wasn’t on her radar until she saw the meeting advertised by the JCC. “I want to sign him up because he doesn’t like sports, he likes computers,” Berkovics said of her son. “But he does like hiking, so seeing the flier and knowing how my family went through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, I felt that it may reach him in a way to help him branch out.”
The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910, and the Cub Scouts were established 20 years later. Scanlan said that scouting originated in England in 1908, and was based on a program that taught soldiers how to survive in the field. Today it is combined with other useful lessons for children.
Scouting “transcends religion; it transcends beliefs,” Scanlan said. “It’s the idea that we’re going to create well-rounded youths that are prepared for life. What the scouts is trying to do is take what you teach them at home, and what their teachers teach them at school, and what they learn in their religious institutions, and apply it to real life.”
The first official meeting of Cub Scout Pack 1818 will be at the Gural JCC — at 207 Grove Ave. in Cedarhurst — on Sunday, March 18, From-Altman said. The calendar year fee per child is $100, or $80 if the application is received before or at the first meeting. Applications are available at the JCC or at www.beascout.org.
For more information, contact Deutsch at (516) 569-6733 ext. 222, and for more information on leadership roles, contact From-Altman at email@example.com.