Meet the new girls on the block

Troop 614 in Silver Spring is one of the first girls troops to join Scouts BSA after it began accepting girls as members on Feb. 1.
Photo by Samantha Cooper

Carefully, 11-year-old Adele Cohen cocks the rifle, brings it up to her eye and aims at the pink bullseye 10
feet away.

It’s her first time with a gun such as this.

After she brings her target back to her, she proudly shows it off. For her first try, she did pretty well — she hit the target a number of times. The six other girls, ages 11 to 13, standing on either side of Adele at Gilbert’s Indoor Range in Rockville, have mixed results.

Meet the girls of Scouts BSA Troop 614, based out of Kemp Mill Synagogue in Silver Spring.

They’re among the reported thousands of girls across the country who joined Scouts BSA (formerly the Boy Scouts of America) since the beginning of February, when the group began accepting girls as members.

Troop 614 is the sibling of Scouts BSA Troop 613 — the same as the number of commandments in the Torah — which has been serving Orthodox boys in the Kemp Mill area for more than 20 years. The girls couldn’t take the same number, so they did the boys one better.

In the past, the Boy Scouts of America permitted girls to participate in boys activities, but girls were barred from being full members. So they couldn’t earn badges or become Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in the organization.

But, in 2018, the Cub Scouts, for children ages 5 to 10, began accepting girls as members. That May, the Boy Scouts announced it would begin accepting older girls. The organization changed its name to Scouts BSA to emphasize scouting over gender.

Adele Cohen shows off her target. She wants to be a scout like her brothers. Photo by Samantha Cooper

That angered the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, which in November filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in the federal district court for the Southern District of New York. The Girl Scouts contends that by dropping the word “boy,” Scouts BSA threatens to “marginalize” Girl Scouts and has
caused confusion.

Girl Scouts is also worried about the Scouts BSA poaching potential members.

“The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today — and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success,” the Girl Scouts said in a 2017 statement.

Members of Troop 614 were thinking about other things during their first formal group activity, at the gun range, on Feb. 3.

For one thing, they don’t have their uniforms yet. So they’re dressed in casual wear: black skirts, graphic T-shirts, leggings, sneakers and school sweatshirts. Uniforms are to be the same as for boys, with the option of a skirt.

Several of the members are in the Girl Scouts, or have left it because they wanted more physical, outdoorsy, get-muddy activities.

Like the chance to learn how to shoot a rifle.

“I prefer to be outside and doing outdoor things like camping and things like that,” says Avigail Sandberg, 13, the troop’s senior patrol leader, an elected position.

Avigail wants to practice shooting so she can go to the range with her grandfather.

Scoutmaster Jeffrey Cohen, Adele’s dad, says he founded the troop as parity for his daughter. Adele’s older brothers are scouts and she wanted to be like them.

“I wouldn’t be a good father if I didn’t make things happen to allow her dreams to come true,” Cohen says.

Target shooting was Troop 614’s first event since Scouts BSC welcomed girls as members.
Photos by Samantha Cooper

Adele, dressed all in black, is one of the more exuberant members of the group. She talks excitedly about 614’s President’s Day weekend trip to Pennsylvania for Kosher Klondike, which brings Jewish scouts from several states together for camping and competing in a variety of winter sports and activities.

Last year, Girl Scouts were invited to join the trip. Adele was one of them. This year, she’s ready to compete as a member of Scouts BSA.

“My brothers have all been Boy Scouts and I like the concept,” she says. “I like roughing it.”

Most of the group live in the Kemp Mill area, and go to Berman Hebrew Academy, an Orthodox day school.

During a break, the girls hang with their friends. Avigail, Adele and Shira Palzer, 13, stick to the side, talking about music, movies and anime.

Out of Adele’s earshot, Avigail and Shira talk about planning a surprise for her at school based on one of their favorite shows, “Attack on Titan,” about a group of soldiers protecting the last of humanity from giant destructive monsters, called Titans.

Here at the shooting range, not only do they get to spend time with friends, but they chose the activity themselves.

“I put a whole list of 25 activities that they could do in scouting at some point in their career, and during one of our first meetings planned what we would do as our February activity,” Cohen says. “And they said rifle shooting,”

Rifle shooting is a required activity in Scouts BSA, but Troop 614 hasn’t done enough today to earn a badge. Other required activities include first aid, rowing, bird study and law.

Once the time is up, most of the girls pack up to go home.

It’s Superbowl Sunday and many of them don’t want to miss the game. A couple of the girls, though, stay behind with their mothers to shoot off the rest of the bullets.

They haven’t picked which badge they will focus on earning next. But the excitement is clear. They’re able to focus on the outdoors. It’s what they want to do.

[email protected]


Scouting in Jewish Washington

For those who are interested in joining Scout BSA or Girl Scout troops, there are plenty of options in greater Washington. Here is a list of Jewish scout troops in the area.

BSA (Boy Scouts of America)

Troop 613 (All Boys)
Meets at Kemp Mill Synagogue
Scoutmaster: Russell Chittum
[email protected]

Troop 614 (All Girls)
Meets at Kemp Mill Synagogue
Scoutmaster: Jeffrey Cohen
Email: [email protected]

Troop 1818 (All Boys)
Meets at Congregation Olam Tikvah
Scoutmaster: Rick Neifeld
Email: [email protected]

Cub Scout Pack 452
Meets at Berman Hebrew Academy
Cubmaster: Sharon Shimoff
Email: [email protected]

Cub Scout Pack 5776
Meets at Ohev Sholom —
The National Synagogue
Cubmaster: Reuven Walder
Email: [email protected]

Girl Scouts

Girl Scout Junior Troop 1498/1624
Meets at Berman Hebrew Academy
Scoutmaster: Robyn Shrater Seeman
Phone: 301-938-5578

Girl Scout Troop 3238
Sponsored by Congregation Etz Hayim and Agudas Achim Congregation
Troop leader: Beth Robbins, [email protected]


—Samantha Cooper

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  1. Thank you for the initial profile of our troop last year. Since that time, the Scouts in Troop 614 have attended Kosher Klondike conducted by Troop 1015 (Harrisburg PA), NJ Kinus, and Summer camp at Forestburg Scout Reservation. They visited the World Scouting Jamboree in West Virginia for a day trip, have conducted multiple local campouts, taken hikes, gone shooting again, and spent 2 days learning First Aid with Adena Miller at the Wheaton Rescue Squad. They have learned knot tying, lashing, fire building, outdoor cooking, leadership skills, and more while having a great time and advancing in rank, with the long term goal of reaching Eagle. There is always room for additional Scouts with the newest members having joined in the Fall.


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