Rabbi Laura Geller’s innovative creation of 13 “merit badges” which defined the path to the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony recalled for me my exciting years as a Boy Scout decades ago (“URJ Overhauling The Bar/Bat Mitzvah,” Editor’s column, June 22).
It made me wonder whether the “terminal degree” function of the bar/bat mitzvah could be replaced and thought of as only a transitional step in the development of one’s Jewish identity by using the Boy Scout model.
The highest rank in the Scouts is Eagle. One goes from Tenderfoot to Second Class to First Class to Star Scout to Life Scout and finally to Eagle Scout. It takes a number of years to get there. So why not treat the bar/bat mitzvah as the functional equivalent of First Class, rather than as the Eagle? If the social climate were changed so that the 13-year-old’s celebration is just a way station on the way to the coveted equivalent of Eagle, it would entice far more youngsters (most of whom thrive on competition) to reach far higher.
Eventually some of the young people who come through this system will become so imbued with its goals, methods and activities, that they themselves will become the future leaders. It’s a system that, once begun and properly primed, could completely revolutionize the Hebrew school experience from Aleph to Taf.