EASTON — Rabbi Peter Hyman, of Temple B’nai Israel in Easton, traveled over the summer with the Boy Scouts of America to the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in Kirara-hama, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Honshu island in Japan.
Hyman said he has been the national Jewish chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America since 1981 and was asked to serve as chairman of the medical chaplaincy during the 23rd World Scout Jamboree. He said there were 14 chaplains on the team, including Hyman, representing faith-based groups throughout the United States, as well as four doctors and a nurse.
Hyman said the chaplains included a Catholic priest, a representative of the Muslim faith, several members of the Protestant church, an Orthodox Christian representative and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hyman said he also served as vice chairman of the BSA contingency, which includes Scouts and leadership, that attended the World Jamboree.
“The concept of a duty to God is a non-negotiable component of the Boy Scout program. ... The Boy Scouts of America are one of the few Scouting organizations that recruit and send a full chaplaincy team to the World Jamboree,” Hyman said.
“It was the largest contingent of chaplains than in any other World Jamboree, under the direction of Rabbi Peter Hyman. ... He is a highly respected individual in the Boy Scouts of America and around the world,” said Charles Dahlquist, a volunteer with BSA, the head of the BSA contingent that attended the World Jamboree and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Hyman said the chaplains’ primary job was to look out for the spiritual, emotional and psychological well-being of the BSA contingent. He said the chaplains dealt with behavioral issues and homesickness, and visited people in the hospital who fell ill or became injured during the trip.
In addition to counseling and leading worship services, the chaplaincy also interfaced with people from around the world, Hyman said. He said the many different worship services were open to all Scouts and leaders; he even attended a Sunday Catholic mass during the trip.
“Chaplaincy work is interesting, especially on this level. We would go to the hospitals and do what clergy do, only we were united by wearing Scouting uniforms. We all worked toward one common reality,” Hyman said.
Hyman said his travels with BSA have taken him around the world, and he has participated in seven other World Jamborees — in Australia, Korea, Thailand, Chile, Holland, England and Sweden.
Roger Schrimp, BSA’s international commissioner, said World Jamborees bring Scouting associations from around the world together.
“The Jamboree provides opportunities to raise awareness about global issues, explore the environment, participate in community service and make friends from around the world. ... Participants had the opportunity to live with and learn from fellow Scouts from around the world and develop a cross-cultural understanding of faith and beliefs,” Schrimp said.
Hyman said the Jamboree site “becomes a full-blown city, with all the issues and concerns and challenges that any large group of people present for a period of time.”
“It is interesting to see how Scouting does this. ... Political rivals and people who might not necessarily speak to one another, in the Scout uniform, come together and that sort of momentarily, is put aside,” Hyman said.
According to Schrimp, more than 33,000 Scouts and leaders from more than 150 countries participated in the 23rd World Scout Jamboree. Hyman said about 2,500 Scouts and leaders participated with BSA. He said in many other countries, Scouts are not limited to boys only.
Hyman said programming focused on camping and high adventure experiences, including zip lining and rappelling; visiting cities and towns throughout Yamaguchi Prefecture to speak to local residents and learn about Japanese culture; lessons in technology; and exploring global issues like peace, the environment and disaster prevention in the Global Development Village.
Hyman said one of the most memorable experiences of his trip to Japan was delivering a sermon during the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony was organized by BSA chaplaincy, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which took place Aug. 6, 1945, at the end of World War II. Hyman said nearly 300 people attended the memorial service and many people even visited Hiroshima during the trip.
“It was a very meaningful and moving moment. ... That was actually one of the more powerful things I’ve done at a Jamboree,” Hyman said.
He intends to bring the World Jamboree message of unity to his own congregation, as well as his community.
“If all you do is take home memories and tuck them away in your files and don’t act on the opportunity for building relationships, which in real ways can contribute to strengthening and making the world better, then it is a wasted experience,” he said.
Hyman is an Eagle Scout and said he grew up Scouting. He said his father was a Scoutmaster and his two sons also are Eagle Scouts. He said he looks forward to the next World Jamboree, which will take place in 2019 at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Beckley, W.Va.