During one of his walks around the Tenafly Nature Center, 18-year-old Avi Samuel of Teaneck noticed a patch of dirt near the pond that was unprotected by footboards and prone to muddiness.
Instead of complaining about the problem, he remedied it as his Eagle Scout service project.
Mr. Samuel planned and built a walkway extension with the help of eight scouts and other volunteers under the supervision of Amanda Shuster, the nature center’s scout coordinator and environmental educator.
“I took woodworking classes at summer camp one time, but this was my first big project,” Mr. Samuel said.
“The actual building took about four hours, but getting all the permissions and signatures took a long time, and we had to plan and design it over many hours,” he explained. “The nature center told us what they wanted, and my dad helped with the design and materials.”
They used composite decking material and pressure-treated lumber.
“Avi’s footboard project was helpful in extending a stretch of elevated walkway next to our pond, which can flood seasonally and with heavy rainfall,” Ms. Shuster said. “By adding the footboards — which matched the existing footboards seamlessly — he has helped to prevent erosion that can occur when people widen the path by walking to avoid muddy areas.”
On February 28, Avi, who is Troop 226’s senior patrol leader was feted at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor at the Jewish Center of Teaneck, where the Jewish Boy Scout troop meets.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank in the Boy Scouts and requires earning at least 21 merit badges and completing a service project. Nationally, only about 5 percent of Boy Scouts achieve this level.
“Relatively few scouts ever attain the rank of Eagle, so as the scoutmaster of the troop, I am proud when a Scout does achieve this honor,” said Daniel Chazin, a retired Teaneck attorney who has led Troop 226 since 1977.
“I have never kept an accurate count, but I can think of about a dozen Eagle Scouts that we’ve had in the troop since I became scoutmaster,” he added. “I know that scouting has meant a great deal to Avi, and I’m pleased to see how his work in earning the Eagle badge has helped him grow and mature.”
Avi is a senior at Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck and has been an active member of Troop 226 since he was a sixth-grader at Yavneh Academy in Paramus.
“I enjoy scouting,” Avi said. “It’s a unique opportunity to learn many life skills such as camping, survival, and leadership. It’s fun at the same time.” He especially enjoys hiking and rock-climbing trips with the troop, which now has 12 active members.
Troop 226 is Bergen County’s only Jewish-sponsored Boy Scout troop and one of only a handful in the state that is Sabbath observant, although 11- to 18-year-old boys from all religious backgrounds are welcome to join.
Mr. Chazin said that Troop 226 was established in 1970. “It was originally chartered to the Moriah School of Englewood and moved to the Jewish Center of Teaneck around 1975,” he said.
The first Jewish Boy Scout troop in the country was formed at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in 1913. Today there are about 60 Jewish Cub Scout packs and 70 Jewish Boy Scout troops nationally. Of those, about 40 percent are Sabbath observant. (There also are Jewish Daisy, Brownie, and Girl Scout troops across the country, including Junior Girl Scout Troop 5826 in Teaneck. As of press time, Girl Scouts of the USA did not respond to inquiries for details.)
Sabbath-observant troops do not have regular meetings or activities on Saturdays, but they do offer weekend camping experiences that give scouts an opportunity to learn skills that straddle Jewish and scouting traditions. They include building an eruv — the boundary that legally transforms a campsite into a private area in which you are permitted to carry on Shabbat — and cooking cholent, the traditional Shabbat stew that stays on a continuous flame from Friday before sundown until Saturday lunch.
David and Jodi Samuel, who are members of Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, believe scouting has been beneficial for their son.
“Boy Scouts gave him the opportunity of learning how to work his way up in organizations like you would in a company,” Mr. Samuel said. “As he got older, he learned leadership skills and the necessity of sticking to a program, starting at the bottom and working his way up. We’re quite proud of him.”
Avi acknowledged that extracurricular activities, like scouting, can be difficult to squeeze into the weekly schedule for students in Jewish day schools, which have a longer day and a double curriculum of secular and Jewish studies.
“It was kind of hard, but I got my homework done fast so I could go to meetings on Mondays,” he said.