At the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, a sea of Boy Scouts set a new world record for dreidels spun simultaneously.
At the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, a sea of Boy Scouts set a new world record for dreidels spun simultaneously.

Why are the Boy Scouts spinning dreidels in the middle of summer?

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This week, on the “(Is it) Good for the Jews” podcast…

Larry Rosen: As you know, there was some hubbub at the recent Boy Scout Jamboree. Seems our president showed up and made a speech. Just as an aside: I don’t need to hear about that speech for a week. I don’t care.

Eric Goldbrener: I don’t care either.

LR: One of the problems I have with the hubbub is that it completely overshadowed an important event that occurred at the Jamboree this year.

EG: Which was?

LR: A world record was set. “The most dreidels spun simultaneously.” This record was set at the Boy Scout Jamboree.

EG: Why are Boy Scouts playing with dreidels? And why now?

LR: I always thought the Boy Scouts were a Christian thing.

EG: No, no. They are the Boy Scouts of… America.

LR: Right, but I thought they were Christian. That’s why everyone was angry at them.

EG: Everyone likes the Boy Scouts! People got mad around here because they said you can’t be a gay troop leader. It was a hubbub years ago. They made a bad call. But come on. They’re a great organization. They represent scouting, self-reliance, community…

LR: Everyone I know who was an Eagle Scout considers that the defining experience of their life. Were you a Boy Scout?

EG: I was not, because as you know the Boy Scouts are something you do with your father, and I grew up without a father.

LR: I thought that was Indian Guides. I did that with my father.

EG: That may be, but the Boy Scouts, you did things with your dad; you made the race car, you got your archery medal, you had the meetings at your house with your dad…

LR: I’m not saying you’re wrong. I am saying…

EG: I lived it!

LR: … that I was a Cub Scout, and at no time was my dad involved.

EG: You were a Cub Scout. By the time you graduate to Boy Scout, your dad is involved. Were you a Webelo?

LR: No. I only lasted one year. I’m saying, though, that I didn’t know any Jewish Boy Scouts, which leads to a couple of questions, but first, the numbers: 820 dreidels spun, which obliterated the old record of 754, set in Tel Aviv, which is where you’d think dreidel records are set.

EG: That’s where you’d look for the dreidel-spinning record. Question: Was this dreidel-spinning record set in New York?

LR: No!

EG: Because that would’ve answered that question.

LR: Do you know what the record for the longest-spinning dreidel is?

EG: It’s gotta be about 10 minutes, if you’ve got a well-balanced…

LR: Wrong! 34.88 seconds! That’s it! Do you think there’s any limit on size? Seems like a big dreidel would spin longer.

EG: There’s a regulation dreidel. If you had a finely engineered dreidel that was made of metal and perfectly balanced, you could spin that thing into infinity. But the regulation dreidel is probably wooden, not perfectly balanced, so the 34 seconds is pretty good.

LR: These dreidels spun for 10 seconds, 820 of them, sponsored by the National Jewish Committee on Scouting and here’s my second question: It’s July. Why are we spinning dreidels in July? We should be doing this in November or December.

EG: Well, you know dreidels weren’t always specific to Hanukkah. It was a popular gambling game.

LR: It’s still a gambling game.

EG: The legend has it, a popular Hellenistic gambling game and when the Maccabees wanted to pretend they weren’t Maccabeeing, they’d spin the dreidel and pretend to be gambling, when actually they were recalling the Hebrew letters.

LR: “There goes those Jews, gambling again…” when actually they’re learning Hebrew.

EG: I thought dreidels had fallen from favor. So much more to do now. We’ve got our PlayStations and our Legos…

LR: “Here, let me make a dreidel arena out of my Legos.” So I suppose we should be glad that the Jewish Boy Scouts are keeping dreidels in the public consciousness?

EG: Absolutely. Even in July, even at a Jamboree.

LR: Even if overshadowed by Donald Trump making a speech.

Larry Rosen
Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen is a writer, husband, father and author of “The Rabbi Has Left the Building,” a memoir about his son’s bar mitzvah. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”

Eric Goldbrener
Eric Goldbrener

Eric Goldbrener is a Libertarian, Zionist, atheist and autodidact technologist. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”