Home APRIL_2024 Saturday the Rabbi Wore His Scout Uniform

Saturday the Rabbi Wore His Scout Uniform

Rabbi Chaim Edelstein, left, and Matthew Kaufman flank Stan Weinstein, retired former Chairman of the Monmouth Council, Jewish Committee on Scouting.

Faith-related activities are part of Scouting

Rabbi Chaim Edelstein was among 30 youth and adults wearing BSA uniforms on Saturday, February 13, when Temple Beth Ahm, Aberdeen hosted its second Scout Shabbat.
    At one point in the service, the Rabbi asked all those who had been involved in Scouting—either as a participant or as a pack leader—to stand. Almost everyone in the congregation did, including a number of youngsters proudly wearing their badges, a smattering of former Cub Scouts, a number of former Den Mothers and Pack leaders, and two women who claimed to only have been Brownies for two meetings!
    According to Temple President Matthew Kaufman, who is also Chair of the Monmouth Council of the Jewish Committee on Scouting, “About a dozen synagogues in the Northeast participate Scout Shabbat. We’re one of two in New Jersey.” The other is Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield.
    The national program is observed on the Sabbath—or Shabbat—closest to the date on which Scouting was brought to the US from the United Kingdom in 1910. Islamic Scouts celebrate Scout Jumuah.
    Matthew, a second generation Eagle Scout, had been eager to introduce the observance to Temple Beth Ahm. He said, “Once Rabbi Edelstein joined us, and I learned that he too was an Eagle Scout, the two of us began making plans. He’s also the Jewish Chaplain of the Council. We already had chaplains representing other religions. Now we have a Jewish Chaplain, too.”

The 2024 Scout Shabbat patch.

  In true Scout fashion, Mathhew said the program at Temple Beth Ahm was open to all. And several non-Jewish Scouts and parents attended the service.
    For the Kaufmans, Scouting is a family affair. “33 years ago I was taken to a Cub Scout program by my dad, and that was it for me,” he said. Both his children, Jacob and Daphne, are involved, and his wife, Kim, is a Den Mother. One of his nephews is also a Scout.
    While Scouting Is known for encouraging personal growth, both Matthew and Rabbi Edelstein enjoy the taking advantage of options that combine their love of both the outdoors and Judaism. The Rabbi has instituted Kosher treks for Scouts at Philmont, a more than 214-square mile ranch in the northern New Mexico wilderness.
    Closer to home, Matthew said the Monmouth Council hosts a kosher week for campers just before the official summer camp season opens at Forestburg Scout Reservation, a 1200-acre site owned by the Council. It is located in New York State between Port Jervis and Monticello.
    Another Faith-related Scouting event Matthew enjoys is the 10 Commandment Hike. He explained, “The members of the Monmouth Council pick a town, like Long Branch or Freehold, that has representation of up to 10 different faith groups. We also pick a Commandment, and ask each of the clergy whose house of worship we will visit to speak about the Commandment from their faith’s perspective. Then, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Scouts hike to each house of worship, spending about 15 minutes hearing from the clergy. They also have the opportunity to ask questions. It’s a really terrific program that helps us all learn more about the people who live in our communities. Plus, it speaks directly to one of the 12 points in the Scout Law:  Be reverent toward G-d. Be faithful in your religious duties. Respect the beliefs of others.”

Matthew Kaufman standing between his dad, Kary, and his wife, Kim. Their children, Jacob and Daphne, are in Scout attire.

  All of which leads back to the story of what brought Scouting to the US. It was during the years when London was famous for a thick fog— eventually understood to be related to the amount of coal burned in each house and apartment for heating and cooking. A publisher from Chicago got lost early one evening walking to a meeting and stopped a young man to ask for directions. After giving directions, the boy led him to his destination. When the grateful visitor tried to give the young man a tip, the boy explained he was a Boy Scout and taking a tip would negate the good deed he had performed and violate his Scouting code.
    His action reflects the Oath still repeated by all Scouts: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to G-d and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
    For more information about BSA or the Monmouth Council of the Jewish Committee on Scouting, contact https://www.monmouthbsa.org/.

Joann Abraham began chronicling Jewish life as editor of Monmouth County’s Jewish newspaper, now defunct, and has written for national and international publications. She is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.



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