If you looked around the sanctuary of Temple B’ Nai Israel last Thursday evening, you would have observed a diverse and transfixed audience. It was drawn by an award to a man who has the uncanny ability to bring together people on the Mid Shore of all faiths.
That person is Rabbi Peter Hyman, who received the Del-Mar-Va Council’s, Boy Scouts of America, 2021 Midshore Distinguished Citizen Award for his well-acclaimed service to Scouting since he was a youth and earned the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
I wrote about Hyman two weeks ago and did not expect to do so again. Then, I experienced an unusual feeling of community, of coming together and uniting around an award recipient known for his interfaith, open-arms and good-natured approach as a religious and civic leader.
Attendees seemed genuinely engrossed in the ceremony, as they listened to stories about Hyman’s spiritual contribution to worldwide jamborees, and his precedent-setting trip to Saudi Arabia as a rabbi and chair of the World Scouting’s Messengers of Peace program. King Abdullah welcomed the cheerful Jewish clergyperson.
Sitting behind me was the assistant manager of the Tidewater Inn, Walter Thomas, an Eagle Scout. Sitting across the aisle from me was a young man, Jack Leffingwell, a recent graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, a former neighbor and an Eagle Scout. Dick Bodorff, the emcee and a friend, is an Eagle Scout. Al Smith, a planning committee member and attendee, is an Eagle Scout.
Scouting unifies all classes of people of all creeds and colors. Founded in 1907, the BSA continues to flourish, helping young men and women develop outdoor skills, teamwork and beliefs in ideals such as loyalty, duty, honor and service above self. Regardless of the dissonance and divisiveness in our world, these life-sustaining values remain strong and well worth preserving.
Trite though it might sound, there was a magical quality about the event in a sanctuary normally reserved for the worship of God and the hallowing of justice and decency. The fit was appropriate; Rabbi Hyman and Scouting ideals were interchangeable at Temple B’Nai Israel on a pleasant evening following a heavy onslaught of rain.
Hyman was pleased and touched by the outpouring of warmth and recognition. He admitted he was speechless, unusually so.
Those privileged to attend could enjoy a few hours free from strife and discord. They could celebrate a man devoted to a youth organization that improves our sense of citizenship and humanity.
Lord Robert Paden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and a retired British Lieutenant General, once described Scouting as providing a haven of sanity in an insane world. He also said, “We must change boys from ‘what can I get’ to ‘what can I give’ attitude.”
His words ring true today. Discord among people of differing political or social or economic views has never been greater in our country since the Civil War. Acts of selflessness seem rare in our me-first world.
The feeling of unity and goodwill was palpable last Thursday. It was refreshingly different and wholly desirable.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.
Photos by Paul Forti