Nearly every Monday for the past six years, Joshua Dorfman journeyed from Riverdale to Teaneck, New Jersey, about a dozen miles away across the Hudson to attend the meetings of Boy Scout Troop 226.
Over that time, Dorfman collected 31 badges — including one that just 4 percent of Scouts ever achieve: Eagle Scout.
In fact, becoming an Eagle is even more rare at SAR High School — Dorfman is the first.
“It takes three-and-a-half years to get to Eagle,” he said. “They teach you a lot about leadership and becoming a good person.”
Dorfman has been a part of Scouting since he joined Cub Scouts at 10. While he could’ve easily joined a much more local group, Dorfman trekked to a Jewish Center in Teaneck each week because Troop 226 is kosher — it observes the Sabbath and holidays.
“I think it would be nice to have it in Riverdale,” Dorfman said. “It would definitely be more convenient. But at the same time, with it being in New Jersey, it kind of reinforced that I needed to go.”
Like many troops, a large number of boys were part of the group when Dorfman started as a Cub Scout. But as the years wore on and the boys grew older, more and more dropped off.
Many boys tend to quit by the time they reach high school because the physical and “fun” activities take a backseat to more “adult” approaches like financial management and good citizenship. Although there were times Dorfman wanted to leave as well, he persevered.
“I stopped for a little bit, but I was so close and was like, ‘I have to get this done,’” Dorfman said. Along the way, he made lifelong friends, and even stays in contact with several of them.
He’s had the chance to travel to places like Miami and the Adirondack Mountains over the years as well.
Dorfman also attributes part of his commitment to his father, who was a part of Boy Scouts as a child, and also a leader in his own son’s troop.
“It was never like, ‘Come on, we’re going to Boy Scouts,’ but like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to Boy Scouts,” Dorfman said.
Over the years, he developed a passion for community service and helping others. He has learned first aid, outdoor wilderness medicine, and even knows how to make a splint.
“I had a friend that was struck by lightning, and by getting the training I did, we helped carry him and were able to stabilize him,” Dorfman said. When Hurricane Sandy barreled through New York, Dorfman delivered food and water to those in need. He also volunteered with residents at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, as well as Montefiore’s children’s hospital.
“I fell in love with the idea of helping people,” Dorfman said. “Me being part of the Boy Scouts has taught me a lot about community. In the Jewish community, they teach you about nonviolence and helping others. The Boy Scouts teaches you that too, but in a modern way.”
It was not easy for Dorfman to get where he is today. Between being a high school student and working toward his Eagle Scout rank, it definitely took a lot of effort.
Part of earning the Eagle means taking on a service project. Dorfman built a 70-foot footbridge at the Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey.
The 18-year-old used about $6,000 worth of material, and planned the project from start to finish.
“You’re not allowed to touch anything, but you have to organize it to the point where you don’t have to do anything yourself,” Dorfman said.
On Feb. 25, a hundred people gathered in the Jewish Center of Teaneck to help honor Dorfman at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor. Among those in attendance were SAR High School principal Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, as well as Jay Wegimont from U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel’s office.
“I thought that it was very inspiring actually,” Harcsztark said. “I was very proud of Joshua’s hard work and commitment, and I saw it as a point to celebrate. I had the honor of giving the invocation at the event, but I would have been very pleased to be there regardless.”
Dorfman was inspired himself. Moved by the work he did as a Boy Scout, Dorfman plans to pursue some kind of medical track in college.
“Joshua is a very impressive young man who has already accomplished a great deal,” Engel said in a statement. “It’s people like Josh that show us the future is bright, and I am proud to represent him.
“Josh serves as a fine example of what our younger generation can and will accomplish.”