Above: Ethan Hartz is the son of Eric and Jennifer Hartz.
Obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout is no easy feat. Ethan, now 15, said he was expected to obtain 21 required merit badges and several more optional merit badges (he has a total of 45 merit badges), complete a large community service project, serve as a leader and role model, and take on a specific role within the troop.
Ethan chose to serve as the scribe of the Patrol Leadership Council, which involved his taking and maintaining notes of the weekly meetings for the troop. Eagle Scouts also are expected to live by the codes and laws of the Boy Scouts of America, codes Ethan believes share a great deal with the values and practices of Judaism.
“I think Judaism shares a lot with Scouting,” said Ethan, the son of Jennifer and Eric Hartz and a rising sophomore at the Galloway School. “Community service is very important in both. The Scout laws share a lot with the expectations in Judaism: trustworthiness, kindness, helpfulness. There are a lot of parallels.”
Aside from those values, Ethan went out of his way to meld his Judaism into his Scouting, obtaining two of the three available Jewish merit badges.
“In Cub Scouts I earned the Alef badge; it’s the first one you can earn for familiarizing yourself with the religion and taking part in Jewish education,” he said. “I also earned the Ner Tamid, the eternal light badge. It was similar but much more rigorous. I had to write multiple essays, study famous Jews and their contributions to their communities, and read from the Torah.”
Ethan started in Cub Scouts at the age of 8 and worked his way up through the ranks. Each rank requires a time commitment; for Eagle Scout, Ethan was required to be active for six months as a Life Scout, the second-highest level.
“I’ve been in Scouts since Aug. 1, 2012,” Ethan said. “That’s when I moved from Cub Scouts up into the Boy Scouts. We have hour-and-a-half-long meetings on Tuesday nights, and I’ve shown up to almost of those meetings throughout my years in the troop.”
Tracy Techau, the Scout executive and CEO of the Boy Scouts’ Atlanta Area Council, said 672 Atlanta-area boys made Eagle Scout in the past year. “The honor and distinction of the Eagle Scout rank represents a great deal of hard work, strength of character and persistence. To reach this great achievement at the age of 14 is another illustration of its own,” Techau said. “We are proud of Ethan and all of the young men on the Eagle trail.”
One of the marquee elements of obtaining the highest honor in Boy Scouts is the Eagle Scout community service project. Ethan chose to build raised garden beds for installation at the Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields because of his love of baseball and his desire to do something outside for the community.
“Completing my Eagle Scout was a really big deal to me,” Ethan said. “I’ve been so committed to it over the last five years, but it’s like weight is added to my shoulders rather than being lifted. There are higher expectations for Eagle Scouts; I’ve always tried to not just meet those expectations, but surpass them.”
Becoming an Eagle Scout is not the end of Scouting for Ethan; if anything, it means he will serve a larger role in leading Troop 467 in the coming years. Ethan said he plans to earn the final Jewish merit badge, the Etz Chaim badge, and to make a run at the troop merit badge record of 55, held by Michael Hartshorn, the next three years.