May 21, 2024
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May 21, 2024
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Westchester Boy Scouts Promote First Females to Eagle Rank

(both photos courtesy of Isaac Salem)

Westchester’s scouting community recently participated in an Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony for Rebecca Gilder and Shira Kornblau, Westchester’s first female Eagle Scouts. Troop 5613’s Scoutmaster, Dr. Miriam Grimaldi, hosted the event at New Rochelle’s Congregation Anshe Shalom.

Rabbi Barry Kornblau (Young Israel of Hollis Hills-Windsor Park) gave the invocation as a proud father of one of two outstanding and accomplished Troop 5613 members. He highlighted common foundations of Scouts’ Law and traditions in Jewish law. Grimaldi then described the “Eagle Trail,” the steps to advance in rank, ultimately earning the rank of Eagle. Grimaldi detailed the usual six-year process, from middle school until turning 18, an exceptional achievement for anyone, but these young women had a much narrower timeframe.

Rebecca, who attended Ma’ayanot High School, started as a Girl Scout because that’s all that was available at that time. She did everything she could: archery, horseback riding, camping, hiking, shooting and building fires. “Rebecca wanted everything that she saw boys doing in Boy Scouts.” She joined the Adventure Scouts, BSA’s co-ed option, without the merit badges.

Shira, who attended Central, joined their crew in 2019, when females were allowed to form BSA troops.

Rebecca and Shira were presented with citations and awards from Northeast Region Jewish Committee on Scouting Chairman Phil Sternberg, Art Adelman, mid-Westchester Elks Lodge #535, Eric Lousi and Mike Smith of the Greater Hudson Valley Council Scouts BSA and the Office of George Latimer, Westchester County Executive.

On Monday, Rebecca’s name was displayed honoring her on the Westchester County Center’s outdoor message. On Tuesday, Shira received the same.

Rebecca’s mother, Paula Gilder, remarked, “I’m extremely proud and honored to be here today. I thought it’s a more remarkable accomplishment than when your brother Daniel became an Eagle Scout. However, I didn’t fully realize its significance until I attended this Court of Honor. Rebecca and Shira, you are pioneers, trailblazers and role models becoming the first female Eagle Scouts in the greater Hudson Valley. Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout presents complexities for all scouts, but you had a hurdle to conquer which was not applicable to the boys. Given your advanced age, when females were permitted to join, BSA regulations only afforded 24 months to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. However, this didn’t deter you.”

Paula added, “With guidance, you figured out the necessary steps to fulfill your dream. Your feisty and resilient attitude provides inspiration and will take you far in life. Mazel tov.”

Dina Kornblau began, “An Eagle Scout negotiates a winding path, but you had several additional complicating factors. You started the path to Eagle late. It also wasn’t easy to find other girls in Orthodox communities interested in hiking, camping and animals.”

Dina continued, “You already had long, busy, full days and compressed time to get it done and all those trips to Westchester. This was 2020 and COVID happened; no meetings, no camping trips; it really seemed impossible. Weekly meetings became remote and easier to attend. Camping trips were only as far as the Grimaldi’s backyard.”

Dina called BSA’s four-month COVID extension to complete Eagle their silver lining. She added that Shira’s Eagle Scout project had a late start, after she graduated high school, in her gap year in Israel, navigating a very different cultural mentality about her project, “6000 miles and seven time zones away from her mentors.”

She added,”You put your heart and soul into this, learned to be part of a team, lead a team, plan projects and organize. It’s been a pleasure watching you; not just the hard work, but watching the joy that you infuse into every situation, being with your friends or family and it’s a joy to be your mom.”

Both girls were awarded Eagle badges and their parents received Eagle pins. Rebecca presented Grimaldi her mentor pin and Shira presented Evan Gilder with hers.

In her remarks, Shira stated, “On my board of review, I was asked, starting scouting so late, do you feel you missed a lot of experiences? The answer is yes, but I am beyond grateful for the memories and experiences that I know last a lifetime. Scouting has played a wonderful role in my life for the past three years.”

Shira’s project was starting a composting program in Migdal Oz, Israel. Of note, shemitah presented restrictions, but she expects next year to be smoother.

“For the longest time, I never thought this day would come. Not only is it happening but I get to share it with a great friend,” expressed Rebecca. “Through scouting, I had many great experiences, met great people and had opportunities to travel around America on adventures.”

Rebecca’s Eagle Scout project was installing five free libraries around White Plains, when the lockdown closed libraries.

Rebecca’s next stop is Binghamton University. Shira made aliyah and will begin Sherut LeUmi.

By Judy Berger


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