By Kevin Madigan / kmadigan@atljewishtimes.com

Cub Scouts in Pack 1818 tend to the American flag during a camping trip.

Cub Scouts in Pack 1818 tend to the American flag during a camping trip.

A single mother of two boys found a good way for her family to fit in and make friends after moving to Atlanta from Melbourne, Fla.

Janet Simmerman signed up Austin, now 9, and Matthew, 11, to become Cub Scouts with Pack 1818, one of two Jewish Boy and Cub Scout troops in the Atlanta area. She then promptly became committee chair for the organization and made herself indispensable.

“I do all the behind-the-scenes organizing and facilitating, the calendar and scheduling for our events, supporting the cub master, doing popcorn sales, and making camping arrangements,” she said.

“I just can’t explain how my sons have grown. To be in the great outdoors, to have different experiences, be with other people, with the philosophies of being respectful, of being responsible, being courteous,” Simmerman said. “Pack 1818 was a godsend to us.”

The only other Jewish Boy and Cub Scout troop in Atlanta is at Torah Day School, Simmerman said, and is more religious than 1818. “We have Jewish themes. We say a small prayer at the top after hiking. We have a Chanukah party as opposed to a Christmas party. When we’re camping, we do a short Shabbat service. So it’s not over the top.”

Pack 1818 is recruiting more boys in North Atlanta to join the group and is holding a special event Aug. 16 at Garrard Landing Park in Alpharetta to attract new Scouts.

“We want to concentrate on the boys that are first grade to fifth grade but hope to attract some older ones also to fortify the troop,” Simmerman said. The pack and the troop — for boys in sixth grade and higher — each have about 16 members. “We don’t want to be humongous, but we certainly want to bring more people into the fold.”

Paul Carling is the Boy Scout troop leader and was formerly in charge of the Cub Scout pack.

“What I get out of it first and foremost is playing time with my son, Ronnie, who is 13,” Carling said. “We do things we’d never get to experience unless we were in Boy Scouts, such as going on an overnight campout, sleeping in a cave, rappelling down a cliff or whitewater rafting. Unless it’s organized and put into a group, you’re never going to have the opportunity with your son.”

Getting to see Ronnie and the other boys become responsible young adults who can take care of themselves is another bonus for Carling. “Learning skills makes them mature, helps them grow up, become more thoughtful,” he said. “There’s an actual agenda they must follow in order to advance, especially if they want to become an Eagle Scout.”

Pack/Troop 1818 differs from other Scouting groups in that it falls under the auspices of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, whereas similar groups are usually organized by a church or school.

Troop 1818 and Pack 1818 “are special because they decided to focus on Judaism and Scouting and how they go together. That’s an interesting twist,” said Tony Rosenberg, Jewish representative for the Boy Scouts’ Atlanta Area Council Religious Relations Committee. “The charter organization looks out for the unit, from an administrative standpoint. JCC is a charter organization on behalf of 1818. That’s unique.”

Rosenberg said the one commonality among all the boys is Scouting. “These boys don’t all go to church or school together, so I think they are more in tune with what Scouting is all about. They are focusing more on the Scouting itself, on brotherhood and what it means to be Jewish.”
Carling summed up the benefits of becoming a Boy Scout: “It’s just a cool thing. It’s organized, it’s safe, it’s well thought out, and it’s fun.”

Who: Jewish Boy and Cub Scout Troop 1818

What: Recruitment and opening day

Where: Garrard Landing Park, 8000 Holcomb Bridge Road, Alpharetta

When: 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16