2017-07-19 / Local News

Local Jewish Scouting is a community hidden gem

By LISA FIELDS For the Voice

Ben and Lisa Fields enjoying their recent Scouting “Kinus” for Pack 36, a Jewish Scout Troop which meets at Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill. Ben and Lisa Fields enjoying their recent Scouting “Kinus” for Pack 36, a Jewish Scout Troop which meets at Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill. Did you know that there is a Pack of Jewish Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts that meets regularly at Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill to do activities that are both Scout- and Judaism-centered?

If you had no idea, you aren’t alone. I had to search hard to find Pack 36 (double chai) when my son wanted to join Cub Scouts two years ago, but I’m glad that I did. It’s one of the best-kept Jewish secrets in our area.

One of the things that I like about Pack 36 is that the leaders refer to it as “Scouts Lite.” They know that the boys have other commitments in their lives, from public school to Hebrew school to sports, music lessons, clubs and more. They’re not asking for a big time commitment. Instead of having meetings weekly, like some packs do, there are typically Scouting meetings or activities held monthly, so we’re able to squeeze them into our busy schedule. The activities are typically held on Sundays after Hebrew school.

Pack 36 does a very nice job of combining Scouting activities with Jewish activities.

There are the expected hiking excursions, Pinewood Derby races, and overnight trips—the Cub Scouts sleep at cool places like the Philadelphia Zoo and the Franklin Institute—but there’s also a special Chanukah party every year, complete with sufganiyot (jelly donuts), a dreidel competition and a Jeopardy! -style trivia game with questions about Judaism and Scouting. The entire pack visits Crescent Memorial Park in Pennsauken every May to place flags on the graves of the 1,000-plus Jewish veterans who are buried there, so that the flags will be waving in time for Memorial Day. It’s an activity that’s strangely uplifting and enjoyable, not somber, even though it takes place in a cemetery— and it’s both a mitzvah and a patriotic act.

For me, the highlight of joining the Jewish Cub Scouts was attending their annual Kinus event.

“Kinus” means “gathering” in Hebrew, and over Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of Jewish boys and their parents gathered at Camp NoBeBoSco in North Jersey for a three-night camping experience that was both extremely Jewish and extremely Scouty.

People came from as far north as Upstate New York and as far south as Baltimore to attend the Kinus. Other members of Pack 36 had attended the Kinus many times before, but my son and I had never done it. Honestly, I’d never been tent camping before in my life, and I was a little intimidated by the idea. But the other Pack 36 parents spoke so fondly about the Kinus all year long; I had to see what it was all about. They described the weekend as an amazing bonding experience for parents and sons, as well as for the entire Pack 36 community. If I skipped it because of my camping inexperience, I reasoned, I’d be denying my son the chance to participate in something really special.

My camping-averse sister sent me a link to a YouTube video called “Jews Don’t Camp,” but I decided to go anyway. Friends were nice enough to let me borrow a tent and other camping supplies so that I didn’t have to make any purchases to attend, in case we hated camping. But after all of my worrying, we ended up loving it.

There were Shabbat services in an outdoor amphitheater in the middle of the woods, with the Scouts and their parents sitting on split-log benches for traditional prayers in a most untraditional setting.

The Kinus also offered a truly traditional Scouting experience. There was archery, fishing and hiking during the day and skits around the fire at night. The boys participated in a flag ceremony to start the morning, and a bugler played “Taps” in the evening before we all headed back to our tents.

One thing that differentiated the Kinus from a typical Scouting camping trip was the food. Instead of eating whatever it is that Boy Scouts rustle up on camping trips in the woods (I’m envisioning hot dogs and beans baked in a heavy metal pot), we enjoyed delicious kosher catered meals in Camp NoBeBoSco’s dining hall. For Shabbat dinner on Friday night, we ate roast chicken and potatoes. At other meals, there were a variety of kugels, deli meats, Israeli salads and other fare, with rugelach, babka and other sweets for dessert. I liked the fact that I wasn’t responsible for preparing any meals during my introduction to tent camping…especially since I don’t know how to make anything over a campfire except for s’mores.

I really appreciated the catered meals and varied activities, but what I liked even more was the camaraderie that my son felt at the Kinus. He made friends easily with boys his age from other packs, and he also enjoyed spending time with the boys in Pack 36. Many who attended were teenagers. My son is only eight, but the older boys made a point to include him in their activities. He played Frisbee with them, even though his aim isn’t very good. They joined him in a skit on Saturday night when he decided that he wanted to participate. One boy let my son borrow his fishing rod so that he could try to catch a fish in the lake. And the older group included him in the conversation at mealtimes, which really made my son feel like a part of the pack.

I often wonder why more people don’t know about Pack 36 or join its ranks. The leaders are eager to recruit new members for the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, but the message doesn’t seem to reach a wide enough audience. Hopefully this article will help more people find Pack 36.

If you have a boy in grades K-5 who wants to join Cub Scouts, contact Ron Safier at (856) 751-6663, ext. 218 or rons@tbsonline.org. If you have a boy in grades 6-12 who wants to join Boy Scouts, contact Russell Abrams at (856) 912-4635 or neurodocruss@aol.com. 

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