Tuesday, May 30, 2017

“Tikkun Olam”: Jewish Girl Scouts Give Back!

Throughout May, Americans are given many opportunities to honor the people who make our lives better. We show love for our moms and grandmas on Mother’s Day. We nod to the vast contributions of Asian Americans during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. We honor the service members who gave their lives for our freedom on Memorial Day. We thank educators on Teacher Appreciation Day. And, in addition to all these occasions recognizing those who make up the fabric of America, we also celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, when we acknowledge Jewish Americans who have helped form our history and society.

Appreciating and respecting different cultures, backgrounds, and religions has always been part of the Girl Scout fabric. Taking a peek into the past, we found some unforgettable moments of Girl Scouts honoring their Jewish faith and offering tikkun olam—acts of kindness to repair the world.

When Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912, she invited Jewish girls who had been banned from other social clubs to join. The second troop ever formed was made up of girls from Mickve Israel, the third oldest (and still very active) congregation in the United States.

In 1943, the Brooklyn Eagle reported on a troop from the Convalescent Home for Hebrew Children and the girls’ inspiring projects. Not only did they plant a successful Victory Garden but also knit afghans for war relief and prepared surgical dressings. That troop was given the opportunity to give back to its community the same way that girls are encouraged to today.

In July 1965, Farragut, Idaho was the site of the Girl Scout Senior Roundup, which welcomed 12,000 girls “on the trail to tomorrow.” Rabbi Louis M. Tuckerman was invited to act as the resident Jewish chaplain, providing the attendees with the opportunity to practice their faith while away from home. The girls also had the chance to meet fellow Jewish Girl Scouts.

More recently, Julie Averbach was named one of the 2016 National Young Women of Distinction. Her work as a volunteer with Friendship Circle inspired her to create Adventures from My World, a therapeutic comic book for siblings of children with special needs. She says her project is an act of tikkun olam and hopes it will help siblings express their emotions and remember that they’re not alone in their hardships and joy.

Just last month, Phyllis Epstein was honored as one of the Cool Women of 2017 by Girls Scouts San Diego. She recalls that donating to charity was part of her family’s Jewish culture—they saved coins in a tzedakah box—and that Girl Scouts reinforced the importance of giving back. Or, in her own words, “leadership skills, creativity, thinking about others; these are the things I learned as a Girl Scout.”

As you can see, Jewish girls have been part of the Girl Scout Movement since day one, and we’re proud to call out their contributions during Jewish American Heritage Month!