By Vicki M. Leopold

Samuel Brody Ellis, 15, a member of Boy Scout Troop 175 in Peachtree City, is working on an Eagle Scout project for Congregation B’nai Israel in Fayetteville.

His Star of David tile mosaic in a garden at the synagogue will cover about 30 square feet in a 100-square-foot garden. The star will depict the seven days of creation and have at its center a design of two Shabbat candlesticks.

Samuel Ellis is a few mosaic tiles away from achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.

Samuel Ellis is a few mosaic tiles away from achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.

An Eagle Scout project marks the attainment of the highest order of Boy Scouts. As a Boy Scouts of America publication puts it, one must “plan, develop, and give leadership to a service project for any religious organization or any school or community.”

A sophomore at McIntosh High School, Samuel has lived in Fayette County for 13 years. His father, Ralph, a Delta Air Lines pilot, was an Eagle Scout, and his grandfather loved scouting.

Samuel shows intensity, intelligence and sincerity. He is an excellent student who enjoys participating in debate team, leading youth services at B’nai Israel, speaking publicly and writing satiric poetry. He loves competitive debate and hates injustice.

He credits the development of his character to growing up Jewish amid a Christian majority and to his family’s active role in B’nai Israel. Standing strongly and unashamedly by his Jewish convictions has helped make him who he is, Samuel said.

His mother, Angie, the administrator at B’nai Israel, happily tells anyone how special Samuel is to her and her husband, Ralph.

After their first child was born, they were told they might not be able to have another, but they did not give up hope.

After hearing the story of Hannah and her struggles to conceive during a reading of the Book of Samuel one Rosh Hashanah, the Ellises looked at each other and agreed that if Angie became pregnant, they would name the child Samuel. Shortly afterward, she found out she was pregnant.

For that reason, they consider Samuel a miracle. (His middle name, Brody, honors a World War II fighter pilot his grandfather admired.)

At McIntosh High, Samuel is one of six Jewish students. He has learned in school and in Scouts that people are generally accommodating if they understand about Judaism. Sometimes kids feel awkward asking their questions, but Samuel tries to put them at ease and welcomes opportunities to educate others about the Jewish faith, history and culture.

Fellow Boy Scouts help create the concrete Star of David for the project at Congregation B’nai Israel.

Fellow Boy Scouts help create the concrete Star of David for the project at Congregation B’nai Israel.

Samuel started in the Scouts in a troop in Alpharetta because the local troops met on Friday evenings. His dad finally found Troop 175, which in roughly 30 years has had 174 Eagle Scouts.

When Samuel joined the troop, he found out that its leaders and members took their praying seriously: They opened and closed meetings with Christian prayers. Samuel would excuse himself.

Once he understood Samuel’s situation, the Scout master, Col. Jeff Shafer, developed a more inclusive prayer so Samuel could participate.

Samuel conceived of his Eagle Scout project while attending a Union for Reform Judaism camp, Kalsman, in Arlington, Wash. In the middle of a large garden was an amazing Star of David mosaic. Over the summer the kids ate lunch and played games in the garden and around the star. Samuel thought it would be wonderful to bring the star to his congregation in Georgia.

He proposed the idea in June to his Scout master and district representative and received approval.

Managing this project meant contacting the camp to get dimensions and photos. He began executing the project in August and enlisted the help of four to eight Scouts for each work session. The Scouts wanted service hours, so getting participation was never a problem.

Samuel’s role is to plan and direct the job.

Fellow Boy Scouts help create the concrete Star of David for the project at Congregation B’nai Israel.

Fellow Boy Scouts help create the concrete Star of David for the project at Congregation B’nai Israel.

The team had to level the land, build forms and lay concrete. He calculated that eight cement bags would suffice, only to discover that he needed 20.

Making the star the proper dimensions required his math skills from school. Samuel said: “It’s really pretty amazing to find out that the Pythagorean Theorem really works.”

Home Depot contributed materials to get the project started. Now he needs money to buy the mosaic tiles. (Email CBIadmin@bnai-israel.net if you’re interested in donating.)

“It will take some time to get the donations and the tile, but hopefully not too long,” Samuel said about when he’ll finish the project. “I want to complete this in time to be the 175th Eagle Scout of Troop 175. How cool would that be?”

Scout Shabbat at OVS

In observation of Scouting’s 106th anniversary, Boy Scout Troop 73 will observe Scout Shabbat by participating in Shabbat services Saturday, Feb. 6, at 9:30 a.m. at Congregation Or VeShalom in Brookhaven.

Troop 73 will observe its 66th anniversary under the leadership of Scoutmaster Josiah Benator, who will be marking his 81st anniversary in Scouting. During its 66 years, Troop 73 has seen 50 Scouts earn Eagle rank.

All Scouts and former Scouts are invited to attend the service.