Troop 360’s Orthodox Jewish Scouts Develop Essential Life Skills

Scouting and Judaism seem to go hand in hand.
September 7, 2023
Camp Emerald Bay 2023. Front Row: Hannah Grinblat, Rena Katrikh Back Row: Yishai Wintner, Yaakov Serbin, Micah Jussim, Zachary Schechter, Gabriel Katrikh, Jonah Treitel, Rabbi Aaron Lerner, Henry Lerner, Hal Schloss

Troop 360 offers the opportunity for Orthodox Jewish boys and girls, ages 11 to 17, to develop life skills while having a good time.

“Scouts don’t come in with that mindset of, ‘I’m going to become a better person, a more moral person, a more trustworthy person,” said Dr. Noah Blumofe, leader of girls troop 360. “But it happens, because that is just the overall superstructure of scouting.”

“You’re learning practical skills, fun skills and skills about respect for others,” Hall Schloss, who has been leading the boys troop for 20 years, told the Journal.

A Shomer Shabbat/Kashrut scout troop, 360 has been around since 2001.

When Schloss was growing up, his Scout opportunities were limited. He joined a Boy Scout Troop based out of a public school in Beverly Hills, where nobody was shomer Shabbat or kept kosher.

“As a religious Jewish kid, advancing in Scouts wasn’t possible,” Schloss said. “When my son became interested in Scouts, I got involved. I stay involved because I like camping, and I want other people — young adults or children — who want to become Scouts to get the opportunity I didn’t have.”

In 2019, when Boy Scouts became BSA and admitted girls, Blumofe, whose son was working toward Eagle Scout, was “voluntold” to be scout master of the girls’ troop.

“When Hal mentioned to me that scouts were allowing girls to enter in 2019, my wife, Sandy [overheard and] said, ‘You’re going to be the scoutmaster,’” Blumofe said. “I had one more daughter who was eligible, who would have been interested. She joined and was the fourth Eagle Scout in the troop.”

Troop 360 has had six young women make Eagle Scout, including the first Orthodox Jewish female Eagle Scout in history, Gabbi Stein.

Trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico in July 2015. Front row, Left to Right: Hal Schloss, Sanford Weinberg, Philmont Ranger, Sheila Keiter, Chaim Weinberg
Back Row: Left to Right: Eli Gross, Adin Keiter, Jacob Elspas, Ben Tarko, Yaakov Sobel

“Being part of BSA has changed my life,” Stein told the Journal. “My time with Troop 360 gave me opportunities for growth and leadership, which has definitely made me feel prepared and confident for adulthood.”

Added Rachel Blumofe, “Scouting taught me to be proud of my religion. It helped me thrive as a Jew, while also testing my own faith.”

To become an Eagle, a scout must complete the requirements for several earlier ranks and earn a number of merit badges in a variety of subjects, and then decide on a project to benefit a nonprofit or other public entity. They must submit a project plan, get it approved and recruit others to help. After supervising the project through completion, the prospective Eagle Scout must present a written report on the project to a group of adults.

“The Eagle Scout project is really a lesson in project management for these young people,” Schloss said. “It’s the sort of thing that is taught in business school. It’s not really necessarily taught in college or high school; these people are learning to organize others, to plan a project that benefits some organization.”

He adds, “These are real skills that these kids are learning. It may not be what motivates them to join, but when they complete the program, they’ve learned some real life skills along the way.”

“These are real skills that these kids are learning. It may not be what motivates them to join, but when they complete the program, they’ve learned some real life skills along the way.” – Hal Schloss

While Eagle Scout is the highest rank a scout can achieve, the scoutmasters believe it’s really the middle of their journey.

“I tell my Scouts this is not the end; this is only the next step,” Blumofe said. “Eagle Scout just says, ‘I made it to a point where I demonstrated my reliability and my trustworthiness. … You are going to use this to help others grow in life, whether it’s within the troop or beyond the troop.”

Schloss says they are mainly looking for 11- to 15-year-olds to join, since 16- and 17-year-olds have a limited window to make Eagle Scout. Scouts is an opportunity to have an adventure, while stepping outside your comfort zone.

“These kids get to do fun things and meet interesting people and have experiences they’re not going to have in an Orthodox day school,” Schloss said.

As an observant troop, the girls and boys of Troop 360 meet separately, but many events are together and supervised.

“I enjoyed my time in scouting because of the friends I’ve made and the fun opportunities it’s given me,” Hannah Grinblat told the Journal. “From learning to scuba diving to sailing a boat, scouting taught me skills I never would have learned otherwise.”

Jacob Elspas said that scouting was the highlight of his teen years and helped him grow socially and physically.

“Even though we were shomer shabbat and shomer kashrut, we got to experience all the same things other scouts did including Boy Scout camp and even a week long backpacking group in Philmont New Mexico,” he said. “Troop 360 imbued Jewish values, community responsibility and a love of nature that I carry with me till today.”

Scouting and Judaism seem to go hand in hand.

“Scouting in general believes that we have a higher power above us at all times, and that’s incorporated into how you live your life,” Blumofe said. “In Judaism, our religion is every law you can possibly think of plus three more laws. It does go hand in hand. If you want to live a moral life, follow these rules. If you want to live, become a good person, follow the rules of scouting. They do go together.”

Troop 360 will be hosting an open house on September 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. If you’re interested in learning more about the boys’ or girls’ troop, email scoutmaster@bhtroop360.org.

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