What Being Jewish and a Girl Scout Have in Common
Scouting promotes so many values we want for our daughter: love of nature, respect for the environment, equality and teamwork, and responsibility for our fellow humans. Judaism, of course, imparts these same teachings.
We often forget how far away we are – as a society – from true equality. Although of course women can and do earn more than their husbands in today’s world, by and large, they still earn only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men – for exactly the same job. As parents, we encourage Annabel to be the best person she can be – without any stigma or limitations imposed by archaic assumptions of male versus female. Scouting supports us in this responsibility, continually demonstrating how important women are in our world, reinforcing that girls can grow up to be anything they want to be: doctors, computer coders and programmers, athletes, scientists, or anything else they want to be.
Similarly, Jews have always held women in the highest regard. We honor our four Matriarchs – Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah – in our daily prayers. We share the stories of our heroes, including poet and partisan Emma Lazarus, a Sephardic Jew who advocated for equality and for a Jewish homeland based on religious rights long before there was a Zionist movement. And today, we support our wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters in their leadership pursuits in all aspects of life from law and government to business, medicine, science, education, and more.
But Judaism and Scouting are about more than gender equality.
Although Girl Scouts is primarily a secular organization, it is not – even if we might prefer it to be – a completely faith-free zone, where religion simply isn’t addressed at all. Rather, “To serve God” is one of the core principles of the Girl Scout Promise, which troops recite before each meeting and activity. By exploring the teachings of different religions, the Girl Scouts can promote greater levels of understanding in a world where religion is too often a source of conflict.
To us, being Jewish means always standing up for what’s right, even if what’s right is not very popular. Being Jewish means taking seriously our commitment to repair the world, tikkun olam, one good deed at a time. Being Jewish means honoring women and men, girls and boys – regardless of race, religion, creed, or belief – all in equal measure for their strengths and their right to exist in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.
We’ve invited Annabel’s troop members and parents to Shabbat services at our congregation to share our prayers, our music, and our community. We also have had wonderful opportunities to attend church with Girl Scout friends to learn more about their faith traditions. Invariably, on those Sundays, we’re struck by how much more unites us than divides us.
Perhaps Annabel describes it best:
I’m proud to be both a Jew and a Girl Scout. My Hebrew school teacher, Mrs. Coyne, says that an adult Jew cannot pray alone. He or she must have at least 10 Jewish adults to be allowed to pray. My troop leaders always say, “Every Girl Scout is your sister.” Isn’t that just like a congregation praying together?
We’re proud of her, of course, and we’re especially proud of her stated “cookie goals” for this year: “to sell a lot of cookies so we can earn money for our troop to do good things for the environment and world.” She doesn’t have to invoke Judaism explicitly. It’s just baked into her values – pun intended!
Indeed, Girl Scouts play an important role in our communities, proudly working together to learn about civic and communal responsibilities, about strength, and about independence. Scouting provides a platform for girls to develop lifelong bonds, serve their community, and support each other, wherever life takes them. From strength to strength, together as sisters, they uphold the values of equality, community, fairness, and honor – and all of these are Jewish values, too.
Lauren Theodore is the public relations and communications manager for the Union for Reform Judaism. Jonathan A. Theodore is the brotherhood president at Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, NJ. They are proud URJ Eisner Camp parents.