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The Boy Scouts Worship at Or Ami – Why We Welcomed them and How We Respond to Their National Policy

boy scouts badgeRecently the clergy at Congregation Or Ami responded to a request from a congregant who is a Boy Scout Assistant Scoutmaster, and extended the requested invitation that local scouts be welcomed at a Shabbat service in honor of national Scout Sabbath on February 13.

After consulting with our officers, and various members of the congregation including LGBT congregants, we sent the following email to the whole congregation.

Dear Congregant

Recently the clergy at Congregation Or Ami responded to a request from a congregant who is a Boy Scout Assistant Scoutmaster, and extended the requested invitation that local scouts be welcomed at a Shabbat service in honor of national Scout Sabbath on February 13.

We did so because of the good that these students are doing, even in light of a problematic national Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy. We applaud that the BSA took a first step by lifting its ban on gay youth. However, we are aware and concerned that the Boy Scouts of America has maintained a policy that excludes LGBT scout leaders from its ranks.

As your rabbis and cantor, we want to add our voices to the call for the Boy Scouts of America to end the ban on gay scout leaders. We strongly believe that every individual – youth and adult – is created b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) and we oppose the BSA’s discriminatory policy that excludes LGBT scout leaders.

The BSA ban causes real harm to gay youths, adults and their families around the country. LGBT youth, and often the children of LGBT parents as well, face alarming amounts of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and – most distressingly – LGBT youth experience significantly higher rates of suicide. These children and their families must not be denied the opportunities to achieve and the structures of support that the Boy Scouts already provide to so many, and the policy of excluding LGBT individuals from being scout leaders directly creates an atmosphere of discrimination and non-acceptance.

The book of Proverbs tells us, Train up a child in the way the child should go, and even when the child is old, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). For many children across America the Boy Scouts has proven an excellent way of sharing such life lessons and building character. Like the Boy Scouts, our Jewish tradition emphasizes the values of personal responsibility, service to the community and a broader commitment to justice. These values apply equally to heterosexual and LGBT individuals. Indeed, how can we teach service to a community when that community excludes our friends, family members and neighbors?

So even as we will welcome these Jewish scouts to our synagogue this year, because they strive to do the kind of repairing the world (Tikkun Olam) work that we value in our Jewish tradition we:

  • Plan to articulate in a welcoming but clear way on Shabbat our rejection of the national policy (BTW, the local adult scout leaders, who do not support that policy, already know what we will say);
  • Wrote to the Boy Scouts of America national leadership, to urge them, in no uncertain terms, to fully lift the BSA’s policy of discrimination against LGBT adults; and
  • Reaffirm unequivocally that Congregation Or Ami, and we as clergy, welcome with open arms all Jews and all people – regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

May this continued education help guide the Boy Scouts of America to become the morally straight organization it strives to be.

L’shalom,


Rabbi Paul Kipnes
Cantor Doug Cotler
Rabbi Julia Weisz

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