In an effort to learn more about a Jewish Boy Scout troop in our community, I joined them on an outing to the American Military Museum and Restoration Center in El Monte, CA. About half an hour from West LA, this museum is actually the work of a private collector, who, after gathering up an impressive array of old military vehicles, set up a non-profit museum to display his army green and camouflage treasures to boys of all ages who share an enthusiasm for giant versions of their favorite toys.

I have to admit that, even if I had heard of this museum before, I probably would not have been inclined to visit it, however, I do respect that even the tiniest boys find a 72,200 pound crane mottled green and beige, fantastically appealing.

On this Cub Scout field trip, den leader Cliff Alsberg, who served in the U.S. Army, started the day’s program with an introduction to military issue weapons, ammunition, and equipment, explaining how the various items laid out on the ground before him were used. Then the boys were off to explore the vehicles and tools of the military, from the UH/IM 1323 Bell Helicopter Gun Ship, to a staggeringly huge and rusted ship anchor, far from the deep ocean waters it once knew. There was an old 1940’s Plymouth, painted army green with a white star on the side, and, like so many of the other vehicles on the grounds, it looked huge up close.

After walking around, the Cub Scouts gathered in the picnic area to review their Webelos handbook to determine what they could check off for the “scholar requirements” to achieve a pin.

A bit of an explanation may be in order at this point. The Jewish Committee on Scouting includes packs (cub scouts) and troops (boy scouts) of Jewish boys from the greater Los Angeles area. Some, such as Troop 360, are shomer Shabbos and kashrus, and are inclusive of anyone willing to respect those guidelines. As members of the Boy Scouts of America National Council, the Jewish troops work with the same handbooks and training materials, and are able to utilize the many Boy Scout camping grounds around the country. The way it works in terms of age groups is: Tiger Cubs is the group for 6 year olds, Cub Scouts is 1st through 5th grade (with Webelos being specifically 4th and 5th grade), and Boy Scouts is for 6th grade up to the age of 18.

Boy Scouts receive “merit badges” when they accomplished one of the scouting requirements; Cub Scouts receive “ranks.” Boy Scouts have “den meetings” and Cub Scouts have “pack meetings.” I think. Don’t quote me. Girl Scouts is a totally different organization and is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts. There is a shomer Shabbos/kashrus Girl Scout troop that meets in the valley.

After reviewing their handbooks, a concise lesson on the history of education in American– Jewish education in particular– was given by one of the parents toward fulfillment of the scholar requirement. This was followed by a mini award ceremony, at which time pins were distributed to scouts for previous achievements. As this was a uniquely Jewish scouting event, the men gathered for mincha before heading home.

Notes:

For more information about the Jewish Committee on Scouting, please contact:

American Military Museum and Restoration Center: 1918 N. Rosemead Blvd., El Monte, CA. phone: 626-442-1776, admission: $5/adult, $3/kids (age 10-16),

$1/kids (age 5-9), free for children under age 5.