MONTREAL — There was a very good reason 19-year-old Yehuda Tanny was flying high like an eagle on Feb. 17 – he had just become one.
For only the second time, Montreal saw a native son become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank possible in the boy-scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Tanny’s achievement was two-fold: first, he was only the second young man in Montreal to earn the Eagle Badge (the first was Tanny’s older brother, Binyamin, in 1999).
Second, he did it as part of the Troop 54 in Brookline, Mass., affiliated with the Minuteman Council there, and one of only a handful of shomer Shabbat BSA troops in the United States.
Less than four per cent of U.S. boy scouts reach the Eagle level. Tanny earned the Eagle Badge by the age of 18, as required, but had to wait for an official “Court of Honour” ceremony for it to be official.
“It’s exciting, it’s very exciting,” Tanny told The CJN in a brief interview just before the special ceremony to bestow his rank.
How truly prestigious becoming an Eagle Scout is considered was clear over the weekend of Tanny’s honour. Fourteen members of Troop 54 and six adults made their way up to Montreal for the event accompanied by their scoutmaster, Howard Spielman.
Adath Israel Poale Zedek Congregation in Hampstead welcomed the boys, who were in uniform, for Shabbat services. The congregation held a special kiddush in Tanny’s honour, while he accepted two awards – the Etz Chaim and Ner Tamid – and delivered a small dvar Torah.
At the official ceremony at Oneg Shabbos Congregation the following day, the dozens of guests included high-ranking representatives of Scouts Canada and U.S. diplomat Steven Lett, representing U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson.
Both Lett, an Eagle Scout himself, and Spielman, a scoutmaster for more than a quarter century, noted that achieving the rank of Eagle Scout often opens doors that might be otherwise stay shut, such as when applying for a job.
“What you gained in your journey will help you in your future,” Lett told Tanny.
Spielman’s troop, chartered to the Maimonides School in Brookline, is in most ways no different than BSA troops all over the United States, with its scouts fulfilling requirements in order to progress up the ranks.
But the troop also keeps kosher, observes Shabbat, carries out regular daily prayers and has opportunities for ongoing religious instruction.
The BSA has its own National Jewish Committee on Scouting that promotes scouting for Jewish youth and seeks out “new Jewish charter organizations” to affiliate with, such as the school connected to Troop 54.
At the ceremony, Laurence Amar, a Montreal leader within Canada’s only Jewish scout group, Les Éclaireuses et Éclaireurs Israélites du Canada, which has its main activity in France, referred to the importance of Jewish scouting.
She was followed by Eric Choukroun of the Quebec-based Association des Scouts du Canada, who hoped Montreal could also create an observant scout troop in the near future.
Yaacov Bauer, who billeted the kids at various homes, noted that “what these young men are learning now as scouts will stay with them the rest of their lives.”
The focus of the morning, however, was on Tanny, who is from a family that participates in scouting. Yehuda’s brothers, Avi and Reuven, are scouts, along with Yehuda and his brother, Binyamin. Even mother, Pesha, who was brought into scouting by Yehuda, became an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 54 and has the uniform to prove it.
Meanwhile, Yehuda’s father, Rabbi Chaim Tanny, praised the scouting movement for promoting autonomy and self-reliance.
Other participants at the ceremony included Rabbi Mordechai Wenger; Andy Compeau, commissioner of Scouts Canada’s Quebec Youth Council; Ron Kappert, Scouts Canada’s deputy commissioner of the Quebec Youth Council, and Rabbi Yisroel Bernath of Chabad NDG.