When most of us think about the Boy Scouts, the word “Jewish” doesn’t immediately spring to mind.
When some of us — those of us Anglophiles who read about the Victorian and Edwardian periods (yes, granted, a subset of those of us who occasionally might think about the Boy Scouts) — think about the movement’s founder, Lord Baden Powell, with the big moustache and the funny hat and the many titles and the military history and the African conquests and the muscular Christianity, we don’t think about Jews at all. There seems to be no room for Jews in this particular blinkered vision of scouting.
But that’s inaccurate. There is a great deal about scouting that is Jewish, according to Rabbi Joseph Prouser, who not only leads Temple Emanuel of North Jersey in Franklin Lakes but also is a lifelong scout who now is the movement’s chief Jewish chaplain as head of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.
Religion is deeply important to the Boy Scouts, Rabbi Prouser says, and so is inclusiveness. So are Jews.
That’s why he is taking the Scouts’ Sabbath, set for the weekend of February 3-4, and calling that Saturday night, which will begin with Havdalah, Scouts’ Shabbat.
It’s a way to bring together all kinds of scouts — active ones, from Cubs to Eagles, and former ones (who are called “scouters,” Rabbi Prouser said); boys and girls; Tzofim, Israeli Scouts, as well as American ones; and mainly Jewish ones but possibly some non-Jews as well.
To that end, the chair of the National Islamic Committee on Scouting, Syed Ehtesham Naqvi of Wayne, who will be at the shul, offering greetings from his community.
The program is also a way to bring together all kinds of Jews; because the evening starts after Shabbat ends, Jews from across the county, and representing the entire spectrum of Jewish life, can get to the shul in time for the program.
And non-scouts are welcome as well, Rabbi Prouser said. In fact, it’s open to everyone; it’s a way to showcase the scouting movement. “And it’s a way to get scouts of all sorts together in a religious context,” he said. “It is a movement-wide annual activity of longstanding. It was around when I was a kid, and I think for decades before that, but this is the first time that I am doing it. I want to be sure that there is a Jewish observance.”
He hopes that scouting alumni will come because “it would be valuable for the kids to see adults, in all walks of life and professions, particularly in the Jewish community, who are who they are at least in part because of the scouting experience.”
The evening will begin with a short, dramatic Havdalah — and of course dessert — and then a performance by the Medicine Wheel Dancers, a group of Boy Scouts from northern New Jersey who are part of an internal honor and service society called the Order of the Arrow. “It’s a very talented and entertaining dance group,” Rabbi Prouser said. “They do Native American dances, in costume; it’s a 45-minute performance.” (Yes, there are some problems with cultural appropriation, he conceded, and it’s a slightly questionable matter, but the scouts are well aware of the issue, and handle it with sensitivity.)
Everyone is welcome, Rabbi Prouser said, and he’s particularly eager for scouts and prospective scouts and parents of scouts and scouters to come, to be reminded of the pleasures of scouting and to share them.
Who: Rabbi Joseph Prouser of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey
What: Invites all scouts and everyone at all scout-adjacent to Scout Sabbath 2018
Where: At Temple Emanuel, 558 High Mountain Road in Franklin Lakes
When: On Saturday, February 3, at 7 p.m.
How much: It’s free; reservations are recommended but not necessary
For reservations: Email Rabbi Prouser at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (201) 560-0200.