By Miriam C-S.
What I find so amazing about the Girl Scouts is that no two girls have the same experience. For me, it was the combination of my faith and Girl Scouting that made my journey so special. I joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie, when I was around 7 or 8 years old. For the first five years, I genuinely enjoyed all aspects of Girl Scouting. From camping to cooking to crafts, I had countless wonderful experiences in my Girl Scout troop. It helped that my troop was founded by a group of women, including my mother, at my synagogue, where I felt at home.
One of the highlights of my Girl Scout career was earning the Jewish Girl Scout Awards: the Lehavah Award for Scouts in grades 2-3; Bat Or for grades 4-6; Menorah for grades 7-9; and Or Emunah for grades 10-12. Each award encouraged research on prominent Jewish women, speaking to Jewish clergy and delving into one’s own personal family history and much more. There was no question as to whether or not I would earn the first two awards, since all of us worked together to earn them.
Unfortunately, when I turned 12 it suddenly became “uncool” to me to be a Girl Scout. My original troop disbanded, and my mother and I found a new troop. Suddenly I was the only Jewish member and the Jewish Girl Scout awards were no longer a group activity. I questioned whether or not I wanted to earn them at all.
Looking back as a somewhat-adult, I couldn't really tell you what triggered this sudden change in my feelings towards being a Girl Scout. What I remember clearly is telling my mother that I was through with Girl Scouting; I was ready to throw in my sash, so to speak. Being my beloved stubborn mother, she told me outright that I had to stick it out. I gave her a dozen reasons why I wanted to leave the troop, but she wouldn't hear of it. So, I begrudgingly stayed a Scout.
Luckily, my mother and I get along really well, and she also happens to be a teacher AND chair of the Houston Jewish Scouting Committee. She somehow convinced her stubborn teenage daughter to earn her Menorah Award. Luckily for her, when the time came to earn my Or Emunah, I was raring to get started. By that point, I knew myself well enough to know how much I loved researching and talking to brilliant and fascinating women, discussing Judaism and Israel, and writing about what I've learned. I also consider myself to be fortunate to have a mother who is great fun to work with, so any excuse to hang out with my mom is a good one!
Around the age of 14 or 15, when I started to become more comfortable in my own skin after a few years of awkward middle school years, it slowly dawned on me how much I truly enjoyed Girl Scouts. I gained fantastic business skills from selling cookies (I always sold the most boxes in my troop!). I explored all sorts of things while earning badges. I traveled to Europe with fellow Girl Scouts the summer before my senior year of high school, and I earned the prestigious Gold Award.
Perhaps most important of all, I was able to combine my passion for Judaism with Girl Scouting and also came to realize the connections that already exist between the two. Judaism encourages tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase meaning "repairing the world." Girl Scouts are taught to make the world a better place through volunteering and good works, which is tikkun olam. I am eternally grateful to my mother for giving me no choice in the matter of being a Girl Scout, so I could learn all of this and more. Parents, take note and don’t be afraid! Your kids will thank you someday!
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