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Scouting

The Jewish youth movements which emerged in the first half of the 20th century in central and eastern Europe (e.g., *Blau-Weiss) were influenced more by the German variety (mainly the Wandervögel) than by the British scouting movement founded by Baden-Powell. However, the Zionist youth organization Ha-Shomer (so called after the watchmen's organization in Ereẓ Israel bearing the same name; see *Ha-Shomer), which emerged in western Galicia (then under Austrian rule) before World War I, was a full-fledged scouting movement and employed its usual educational methods and techniques. During World War I (Vienna, 1916) this organization merged with other Zionist youth groups to form the large Zionist youth and pioneering movement *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, which preserved in its educational system, particularly for the younger age groups (from 11 to 17), a strong element of scouting (Heb. ẓofiyyut). Similar educational techniques were widely used between the two world wars in most other Zionist or Zionist-oriented youth movements in eastern Europe, such as Betar, Ha-Shomer ha-Le'ummi, and Ha-No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni. In western European countries, particularly Great Britain (see below) and France, Jewish scout troops and similar youth formations emerged, often established for religious reasons or for the purpose of preventing total assimilation, but at first they did not adopt the Zionist program. In the case of France, they played a considerable role in the active resistance against the Nazi occupation (see below). In Palestine a full-fledged Jewish scout movement was formed in 1919, shortly after the establishment of the British mandatory regime. Gradually it became an important factor in the pioneering settlement effort in the country. After the establishment of the State of Israel (in 1948) it also comprised non-Jewish (Druze and Arab) units (see below). The Israel Scout movement maintains fraternal contacts and exchanges with *Young Judea in the United States, which also incorporates certain scouting methods in its educational system.

In Great Britain

Since England was the original home of Baden-Powell's Boy Scout movement, Jewish youngsters were quickly attracted to scouting and, although no religious stipulations prevented their joining local troops, specifically Jewish groups were founded. This was especially the case in the major centers of Jewish population after World War I. During the 1920s and 1930s Jewish Boy Scout and Girl Guide troops were organized in London, Manchester, and Leeds, and others also flourished in cities such as Birmingham, Glasgow, and Liverpool. Increasing competition from the various Zionist youth movements – which also fostered scouting activities – and the disruption caused by the World War II era and the growth of the Jewish youth clubs combined to reduce the appeal of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides after 1945. The movement nevertheless retained its popularity in certain areas and in 1970 there were several troops in London and others in Hove, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, and other towns. A synagogue at the Boy Scout Center in Gilwell Park, Essex, was consecrated in 1957.

A rival movement in Great Britain was the Jewish Lads' Brigade (JLB), founded in 1895 as a Jewish equivalent to the (Protestant) Boys' Brigade. The JLB, which trains its members "in loyalty, honor, discipline, and self-respect," with the emphasis on good citizenship, is organized on semi-military lines – with officers, NCOs, uniforms, and parades – and has had a fluctuating appeal. However, after a noticeable decline in the postwar years, it underwent a significant revival in the 1960s and by 1970 had about 20 branches in the Greater London area alone; there were also large groups in Glasgow and Liverpool (both of which included girls' sections), and in Birmingham and Manchester. The Glasgow JLB boasted the world's only Jewish bagpipe band. Both the Jewish scouts and the JLB appointed Jewish chaplains, and their members often formed guards of honor for visiting dignitaries at Jewish communal events and memorial services, in conjunction with adult organizations such as the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women. It remained a thriving movement into the 21st century, with hundreds participating in summer camps and a full range of year-round programs, including a three-week Israel tour.

In France

The Jewish Scout Movement (Eclaireurs Israélites) was founded in France in 1923 by the electronic engineer Robert Gamzon (known as "Castor") with a dual purpose: to employ the methods of the scouts in order to imbue a Jewish consciousness into French Jewish children threatened by total assimilation, and to encourage the integration of recently arrived young Jewish immigrants within French society. The early development of the movement was slow. In 1935 there were 3,000 members in Paris (the largest group), as well as groups in Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Lyons, and Marseilles, and in Tunis, Algiers, Oran, and Casablanca in North Africa. When Hitler came to power, the arrival of German Jews in France, especially Leo Cohn (a brother of the Israel jurist Haim *Cohn), enabled the movement to intensify its attachment to Judaism; at the same time the Nazi threat brought it closer to Zionist ideology. Gamzon then elaborated the "pluralist" outlook of the movement: the scouts, who declared their adherence to Judaism, were authorized to identify themselves with one of the Zionist trends – Zionist, religious, or liberal – but a "common minimum" of religious observance (Sabbath and kashrut) was to prevail in all scouting activities.

From this period the movement was concerned with the problems of young refugees. In 1939 a training farm was established which welcomed young immigrants and older scouts; a carpentry workshop was also opened in Paris in the scout headquarters (the first community center).

During World War II the activities of the movement were modified in important respects and encompassed five spheres:

(1) The maintenance of normal scout groups and the establishment of new groups in all the towns of the Southern Zone (Vichy France), where there were many Jewish refugee families. There was also an enormous expansion in North Africa, where groups were established in more than 50 towns.

(2) The establishment of children's homes for non-French children separated from their parents. At the end of 1943 these homes were closed down for security reasons and the children were entrusted, under false names, to peasants or placed in non-Jewish boarding schools.

(3) The establishment of 13 rural groups throughout the Southern Zone for training in agricultural work and eventual aliyah to Palestine. A considerable number of this youth eventually settled in Israel.

(4) The creation of a social service for youth which hid young Jews who were in danger and provided adults with false French identity cards. Over 30,000 such documents were forged and distributed by social workers, who thus risked their lives. About 100 of them were arrested by the Gestapo.

(5) The establishment of an underground combat unit. In 1944, the boys of the rural unit of Lautrec decided to join the resistance movement (Maquis) and fight the Germans. This Jewish Maquis of 70 members was led by Gamzon and Gilbert Bloch and incorporated within the secret army of the Free French. Supplies were parachuted to it on many occasions. Its headquarters were attacked by the German army and seven boys, including Gilbert Bloch, lost their lives. On Aug. 22, 1944, this same group, in conjunction with two others, attacked an armored train between Mazamet and Castres (Tarn) and put it out of action, thereby liberating these two towns and taking 3,000 prisoners.

After World War II the movement was reorganized on a more normal basis; groups were maintained or reconstituted in most towns, and the movement's total membership was 10,000. In 1946 Gamzon founded the Ecole Gilbert Bloch for training youth leaders for the movement and the Jewish organizations of France and North Africa. Rapidly developing into a center of advanced Jewish learning, the school was subsequently headed by Leon Askenazi (known as "Manitou") for many years. The two leaders of the movement, Shimon Hammel (known as "Chameau") and Gamzon, settled in Israel in 1947 and 1949, the latter at the head of a group of 50 former scouts which settled in Sedeh Eliyahu and then in Nir Eẓyon. In 1971 the movement had around 5,000 members in all the towns of France. Its general orientation was religious but not Orthodox. Its long-standing interest in Israel developed into a definite Zionist orientation in 1970, so that knowledge of Israel became one of its focal points, along with Judaism as such and art, music, and sports. In the early 2000s it had around 4,000 active members in 55 groups and organized 60 summer and winter camps in France and abroad (Israel, Peru, Madagascar, Canada, eastern Europe).