Jewish Daisy troop off to energetic start

"Am I going to be Jewish today?" asks 5-year-old Cassidy Szarnichi.

In posing the question to her mother, what Cassidy actually wants to know is whether she has Daisy Scouts that day, where she recognizes the songs and prayers as Jewish

Szarnichi is one of seven kindergartners in the only all-Jewish Daisy Scout troop in the Bay Area. Her mother, Michaelia Szarnichi, drives all the way from their home in San Francisco to San Mateo, where the Daisy troop has been meeting at Peninsula Temple Beth El since the group started this fall.

"I want Cassidy to have the extra touch being in a Jewish troop," said Michaelia Szarnichi, who is of Ethiopian-French-Polish background. "This troop provides the opportunity for Jewish upbringing in a fun way."

Daisy Scouts, a relatively new concept, is the precursor to Brownies, which is the precursor to Girl Scouts.

Daisy troop leader Elizabeth Charlson believes "it is important for girls to have self-esteem and quality, strong, Jewish experiences."

As a child growing up in San Mateo, Charlson participated in Girl Scouts for four years. Though it was a positive experience, Charlson said, she was the lone Jewish girl in her troop.

Now, her two daughters can get the best of both worlds, as members of all-Jewish Daisy and Brownie troops.

In leading the Daisy troop, she said, "I feel I can direct activities that will be meaningful and add personal Jewish value for these girls."

Charlson, who can be reached at (650) 349-5239, is also in her second year as co-leader, with Rose Calander, of the all-Jewish Brownie troop No. 1011 at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center in Belmont.

The Daisies recite the hamotzi before eating and sing Hebrew songs. They will perform community-service projects and plan their activities around the Jewish calendar, including celebration of Jewish holidays.

Activities already planned include a joint trip with Brownie troop No. 1011 to A Traveling Jewish Theatre's children's play in San Francisco. A Scout Shabbat service at Beth El is on the calendar for the spring.

Linda Monosson of San Mateo, whose daughter Zoe became a Daisy, welcomes the new troop.

"When I grew up as a Girl Scout, there was no recognition of Judaism. This broadens the Jewish community for my daughter."

The older and younger scouts came together for the investiture ceremony of Daisy Troop No. 612 last month at Beth El.

Following a flag salute and the singing of "Hinei Mah Tov," Scout leaders welcomed everyone and conducted a candlelighting ceremony. Brownies received award patches and the Daisies received their pins.

The ceremony closed with the girls in a circle, singing "Make New Friends."

If they stick with it, the Daisies will eventually become Brownies, and members of the all-Jewish Brownie troop are definitely enthusiastic about the benefits of Jewish scouting.

Said 8-year-old Doria Charlson: "Our whole troop gave 10 percent of our cookie-sale money" to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. "It's a tzedakah lesson."

Sydney Calender, 8, said she especially liked "the Chanukah projects that we make and sell to the North Peninsula Jewish Day School."

Added Michelle Levine, also 8, "My favorite activity was the havdallah service we put on at our overnight."

Esther Heller of Menlo Park, who is a representative and liaison of the National Jewish Girl Scout Committee, said Girl Scouts and Judaism "have common values of long tradition, history and recognition of women and girls. Judaism is aware that Girl Scouts are a good place for girls to be. And the Girl Scout organization now recognizes Jewish Girl Scouts by acknowledging our calendar."

Scouting has even created special awards for Jewish scouts to earn. In fact, Heller noted, "there is also a Jewish adult award given to individuals who provide outstanding service to Jewish girls in scouting."