Scouting Serves the Jewish Community
BSA Mission Statement
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make
ethical choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the
Scout Oath and Law.
The Charter Concept
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) can be described as a delivery system. It
is a network of more than 300 autonomous councils that franchises program
opportunities to youth-serving organizations. This is accomplished through a
yearly renewable charter. The BSA offers training programs, activity guides,
support systems, and use of camps to the leadership of Jewish organizations
interested in additional methods of strengthening the value systems of their
members, the children of their members, and possibly other young people in
their communities. Jewish organizations can control the program content,
membership, and any religious requirements within the basic context of the
Scout Oath and Law.
Scouting as a Jewish Youth Group
Jewish institutions have used the Scouting program since 1916. Today,
Scouting is flourishing in Jewish communities. Jewish leaders Dr. Cyrus Adler,
Frank Weil, and Mortimer Schiff helped guide the development of the Scouting
movement in the United States.
Working Together to Benefit Young People
Scouting and Jewish institutions work together to promote the religious
education of Jewish youth and encourage Jewish identity. BSA programs in Jewish
institutions can serve as a vehicle for strengthening Jewish values, a sense of
belonging, enrichment, and education, besides offering motivational support and
increasing parental involvement. In addition, the National Jewish Committee on
Scouting (NJCS), in cooperation with the Jewish Educational Services of North
America, has developed supplemental Jewish program resources and literature to
augment existing BSA program materials.
Local BSA council professionals work with Jewish institutions to explain how
the programs will assist the Jewish community. The council will also provide
volunteer support services. In many communities, councils have Jewish committees
NJCS Mission Statement
It is the mission of the NJCS to promote Scouting for Jewish youth by securing
new Jewish chartered organizations and by continuing to provide individual Scouts
and units with quality programs and service.
BSA Program OptionsA Ready-Made Support System for Jewish
Institutions at All Levels
Tiger CubsThe Tiger Cub program is for first grade (or age 7)
boys and their adult partners. There are five Tiger Cub achievement areas.
The Tiger Cub, working with his adult partner, completes 15 requirements within
these areas to earn the Tiger Cub Badge. Program themes geared to the Jewish
community are also available as a supplement to the existing Tiger Cub
Cub ScoutingFor second- through fifth-grade boys who participate
weekly on the den level as a small group and monthly at a pack meeting where
several dens come together.
Boy Scouting is a program for boys ages 11 through 17 years that is
based on a vigorous outdoor program and peer group leadership with the counsel
of an adult Scoutmaster. (Boys may also become Boy Scouts if they are 10 and
have completed the fifth grade.)
Varsity Scouting is a program for young men ages 14 through 17 years
that is built around five program fields: advancement, high adventure, personal
development, service, and special programs and events.
Venturing is a contemporary program for young men and women ages 14
through 20. Crews can be oriented toward a special interest, or an existing
youth group can register as a Venturing crew and take advantage of high-adventure
bases, camps, insurance, and other resources.
Boy Scouts may participate in special activities, including Scout jamborees;
the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's national honor society; and the National Eagle
Scout Association for Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in Scouting.
Venturers may participate in local and national activities and events. Venturers
are also eligible for national scholarships and other awards.
Besides local council summer camp opportunities for Boy Scouts and day camps
for Cub Scouts, many exciting experiences, including national high-adventure bases,
are available for Venturers and older Boy Scouts. These high-adventure bases are
located in Minnesota, Florida, and New Mexico.
A professional staff member within the BSA's Relationships Division serves as
an adviser to the NJCS, which is composed of Scouters of the Jewish faith from
throughout the United States.
The National and Local Council Jewish Committees on Scouting
The NJCS was founded in 1926 by Dr. Cyrus Adler. The committee has the
- Promote and strengthen relationships with national Jewish organizations
- Develop literature and support materials
- Recruit rabbis for national and international events, as required
- Provide support to local council Jewish committees and to BSA council
professional staff members who directly assist synagogues, day schools,
Jewish community centers, and other Jewish institutions
This support includes
- Analyzing the needs of Jewish institutions and, in conjunction with
BSA local council professionals, organizing Tiger Cub dens, Cub Scout
packs, Boy Scout troops, Varsity Scout teams, and Venturing crews
- Promoting and administering the Maccabee (first through third grades),
Aleph (third through fifth grades), Ner Tamid (Boy Scouts), and Etz
Chaim (older Boy Scouts and Venturers) religious emblems programs
- Promoting Scout Sabbath services
- Making arrangements for rabbis or
laypeople to conduct religious services at Scout camps, camporees, and
other appropriate occasions
Individualized Learning ProgramsJewish Emblems
The NJCS provides an additional Jewish stimulus through its religious
- The Maccabee emblem is intended to involve the families of boys in
first through third grades as partners in the experiences related to
the award. To earn the Maccabee, a Cub Scout must complete requirements
in six categories: Jewish personalities, holidays, vocabulary, symbols
and objects, community helpers, and heroes.
- The Aleph emblem is earned through a home-centered set of activities
for Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts (third through fifth grades),
centering on the Torah, prayer, holidays, American-Jewish heritage,
the synagogue, and Eretz Yisrael.
- The Ner Tamid emblem provides an opportunity for Boy Scouts to enhance
their knowledge of Judaism through advanced activities that strengthen
the youth's relationship with his rabbi. Central to the Ner Tamid are
service projects for the synagogue or other chartered organizations
that are organized and completed by the Scout.
- The Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) Award is designed for Boy Scouts in high
school, ages 14 to 18, and registered Venturers, ages 14 to 20. The
purpose of the award is to encourage young adults to explore adult
Jewish roles in the context of family, community, and Jewish people.
The requirements can be completed in six months and require a
Three scholarship programs have been established for Jewish Eagle Scouts who
have earned the Ner Tamid emblem: the Frank Weil Memorial Scholarship,
established in memory of Frank Weil; the Chester M. Vernon Memorial Scholarship,
established in memory of Chester M. Vernon (provides the Scout selected with a
four-year scholarship); and the Marvin & Florence Arkans Scholarship,
established by Marvin and Florence Arkans.
The Shofar Award is granted by local councils to recognize outstanding adult
service in the promotion of Scouting among Jewish youth.
Youth participants help pay their own way by paying dues to their pack, troop,
team, or crew treasuries and by approved money-earning projects. Part of the
attraction of Scouting is that synagogues, Jewish community centers, day schools,
and other chartered organizations rarely incur additional expenses.
The BSA publishes two magazines for its members, Boys' Life and Scouting.
In addition, there are handbooks for each phase of the Scouting program, merit badge
pamphlets, leaders' books, training pamphlets, program helps, and supplemental Jewish
Unit leaders are selected and approved by the local Jewish organization. The
local council and Jewish committee can assist in recruiting leadership.
Information regarding unit formation, Jewish committees on Scouting, Jewish
emblems and recognitions, and other materials is available through the BSA local
council service center or from the Relationships Division, S326, Boy Scouts of
America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, TX 75015-2079;
The following Jewish organizations have endorsed the Scouting program:
- National Jewish Committee on Scouting
- Rabbinical Council of America
- Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism