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Etz Chaim Award

The Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) Award is designed for Boy Scouts in high school, ages 14 to 17, and registered Venturers ages 14 to 20. The purpose of the award is to encourage the young adult to explore adult Jewish roles in the context of family, community, and Jewish people. The requirements can be completed in six months and with a counselor's assistance.

When you and your counselor agree that you have successfully completed the requirements, submit the completed application to your local Jewish committee on Scouting or your local council service center. The award will be presented to you at an appropriate public ceremony in consultation with your unit leaders and your family.

Selecting a Counselor

You will need to select an adult who is familiar with your Jewish community to help you to complete the requirements for this award. The counselor should have a working knowledge of Jewish traditions and culture and be available to provide guidance. A rabbi, Jewish schoolteacher, Jewish community center executive, or Jewish youth group adviser might make suitable counselors. Your local Jewish committee on Scouting or the National Jewish Committee on Scouting will assist you in locating and selecting a counselor if necessary.

Meet with your counselor to review the requirements and to determine how often you should both meet. If your counselor has any questions about the requirements, contact the National Jewish Committee on Scouting. If you and your counselor decide that you are unable to complete a requirement because the resources necessary are not available in your community, you can contact the National Jewish Committee on Scouting for a substitute or alternative activity.

Keep a notebook of all the information you collect while completing the requirements for this award. You and your counselor will want to review it, and you might need it to complete the last requirement.

Note: The previous requirements (including the Ner Tamid prerequisite) may be used until December 31, 2003. Beginning January 1, 2004, only the requirements contained in this brochure may be used to earn the Etz Chaim Award.

Requirements for the Etz Chaim Award

  1. Community and Family History
    1. Find out when the first Jewish person arrived in your community, and from where and why he or she left to come here.
    2. Find out when the following were established in your community and by whom:
      1. The first Jewish cemetery
      2. The first synagogue
      3. The first social club or benevolent society
      4. The first Jewish relief society or Jewish charity organization
    3. Find out when your first family member arrived in your community, and from where and why he or she left to come here.
  2. Community Institutions and Agencies
    1. Collect bulletins, newsletters, and membership brochures of five Jewish organizations in your community or neighborhood. Be sure to include at least one synagogue or independent chavurah, and Jewish community center, if one exists in your community. (If there are fewer than five in your community, contact the state or regional offices of Jewish organizations that serve your community.)
      1. List the purpose or mission of each organization.
      2. Give three reasons why someone might join or use the services of each organization.
    2. Examine the names of the organizations, the bulletin or newsletter mastheads, the logos, etc. Identify any Hebrew names or phrases.
      1. For each name or phrase, list where it is found in Jewish sources or tradition.
      2. For each name or phrase, tell why you think the organization chose it and what the name or phrase says about the organization today.
    3. Give a minimum of 10 hours of volunteer service to a Jewish organization or agency in your community, or any agency that serves Jewish people. (If your high school has a community service requirement that you have already completed, ask your counselor if those hours can be applied to this requirement.) Write a brief report about your experience, including why you think the service you provided is important to the community.
  3. Synagogue Worship and Torah Study
    1. Attend Shabbat services regularly over a three-month period and complete the following activities:
      1. Describe the siddur used by the congregation, indicating the author/editor, the publisher, contents, languages used, and any other significant feature.
      2. Describe a typical service, either Friday night or Saturday, indicating portions read in Hebrew and in English, portions chanted by the cantor and/or congregation, and whether the Torah was read.
      3. Select any three Torah portions from this three-month period and write a summary (100-word minimum) for each portion, list any specific injunctions or commandments given in each portion, and indicate what you think the lesson, moral, or message is for today for each portion.
  4. Community Jewish Leaders
    1. Interview five adult Jewish leaders who are prominent in your community. Choose at least one rabbi and one leader from a Jewish agency or organization.
      1. Why did the leader enter his or her chosen career or occupation?
      2. What were the Jewish influences in the leader's life while growing up?
      3. What volunteer work does the leader do now and why?
      4. How do Judaism and Jewish values influence his or her life today?
      5. What role does faith in God play in your life as a Jew?
    2. Write a short composition (five hundred words) titled "The Qualities of Adult Jewish Leadership Today."
  5. Your Community and the Jewish World
    1. Obtain a copy of a Jewish newspaper that serves your community or region.
      1. Locate, read, and summarize two articles dealing with the concerns of Jewish people in the United States.
      2. Locate, read, and summarize two articles dealing with the concerns of Jewish people outside the United States. For example, in Israel, Canada, Europe, etc.
    2. Ask three Jewish adults you know what they do to help Jewish people outside the United States, and why. Tell which effort interests you most.
  6. Your Community and the Future
    1. Ask ten Jewish young adults and ten Jewish adults what they think are the three most important challenges that Jewish people face in your community today. Organize the responses into three lists: personal issues, family issues, and community issues. Select one issue from each list and tell what you think should be done to deal with it.
    2. Locate and read an article from a national Jewish magazine about Jewish people and the future. Tell how the topic discussed in the article might affect your Jewish community.
  7. Community Sharing
    1. Create a record of your work for the Etz Chaim Award. This may be a photographic essay, a videotape recording, a series of drawings, or a written journal.
    2. Give a presentation of what you have learned about your Jewish community to at least two groups. At least one should be to a group of younger Jewish children. Use your record in your presentation.

Application Form
Download an application for the Etz Chaim Award.

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