I have some very fond memories of my years as a cub scout. We had a lot of fun getting together at each other’s houses under the watchful eyes of mom’s who served as Den Leaders. I remember having a belt filled with little metal belt loops that were the equivalent of Boy Scout merit badges, having one of the worst looking Pinewood Derby cars that was a winner despite its looks thanks to my Dad’s scientific expertise and making my way up through the ranks to Webelos.
Boy Scouts was a whole other story. I joined a secular sponsored troop that met at my synagogue, never made it past Tenderfoot and quit after the first campout (I was never meant to sleep in a tent). My only achievement, selling the most candy for the Halloween candy fundraiser, was not even my own. My little brother, the budding entrepreneur, made those sales (and I gave him the long forgotten prize).
I was a complete failure as a boy scout, which is why, over the years, I would stand in awe of my Temple kids who excelled and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. I took pride in helping scouts with their Jewish merit badges, in sponsoring scout shabbatot, in supporting Eagle projects and in offering blessings and benedictions at their Eagle ceremonies.
All that ended in 2001. In 2001, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism recommended that Reform Congregations withdraw their sponsorship and stop housing Boy Scouts of America troops because of the BSA’s discriminatory ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders. In full agreement with that decision, I pulled my personal and rabbinic support from all scout activities with the exception helping Temple kids who asked with their Jewish merit badge requirements. Scouting was not even a consideration for my own son even though, at the time, we lived in a town where it was a very active presence. I preached openly about the Scout’s discriminatory policies and suggested parents think carefully about their children’s involvement. And, most visibly, for the past 14 years the synagogues I have served have not hosted BSA troops or sponsored Scout Shabbatot. It was a situation, given the BSA’s public statements, that I thought would be with us for many years in the future.
This has been an amazing summer, however, with gains in making our society more open and affirming that have been almost unbelievable in their scope. The Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, theEmployment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently voted that discrimination against people of the LGBT community is forbidden under Title VII of theCivil Rights Act, and only days ago, The Boy Scouts of America voted to lift their ban on gay scout leaders. This represents an important step forward for scouts and scouting and teaches our children that leaders are determined by their personal values and not their sexual orientation.
There is still a ways to go towards a fully open BSA. As Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Reform Movements Commission on Social Action, noted in her response to the BSA’s decision: ion and that the BSA has not taken a formal stance against discrimination based on gender identity.” “While we applaud this important decision by the BSA, we are disappointed that the organization will continue to allow individual troops to choose to discriminate based on sexual orientation.”
I know that I and my colleagues will continue to push the BSA towards a more complete national anti-discrimination policy that is in concert with our understanding that all people are created in the divine image and worthy of equal respect and dignity. However, in recognition of this sea change in the BSA’s policy, this failed scout is ready to once again fully support the scouts of our congregation with one simple caveat.
I am happy and honored to welcome our Temple kid’s troops for a scout Shabbat, to support their projects and to take p
art in their Eagle ceremonies so long as they are coming from troops that support and affirm the inclusion of both gay scouts and gay scout leaders.
The path to tikkun olam, to a world healed and completed is a long one. Rarely are we blessed to see so many changes for the better in such a short time. Our vision of a society where all are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve is still far off, but this summer it does feel just a bit closer with regard to our LGBT brothers and sisters.