Sam Rubin: ‘Gaga’ for Shelton and Eagle Scout tradition
Photo: Courtesy Rubin Family
Eagle Scout mentor and Shelton School Assistant Head of Middle School Will Riemer helped Shelton junior Sam Rubin with the construction of the Gaga pit Sam dedicated as his Eagle Scout project.

By Deb Silverthorn

It was only fitting that Sam Rubin would hold his Eagle Court of Honor at Congregation Anshai Torah (CAT). It was there that he attended services and religious school and ascended the bimah on his bar mitzvah. And as he took his Eagle Scout Oath, May 15, he was surrounded by his family, friends, Boy Scout connections and his rabbis.

“Scouting was important to my dad and to my family, but through the years it clicked for me on my own. I’m very proud of the work I put in, all that I accomplished and to be a part of this family tradition,” said Sam, a member of Troop 261.

Paying homage to Sam during the ceremony were his parents; Anshai Torah rabbis Michael Kushnick and Stefan Weinberg; friend, Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster Ben Halpern; Scoutmaster Roger London; scouting mentor and Shelton School Assistant Head of Middle School Will Riemer; and Eagle Scout adviser Scott Rudes. Fellow Eagle Scout Jacob Rudes served as the ceremony’s emcee.

A junior at Shelton School, Sam is the son of Staci and Dr. Paul Rubin and brother of Natalie, Sophie, Brody and Eli. He is the grandson of Samylu and the late Dr. Norman Rubin and Florence and Howard Shapiro. Sam’s path through scouting has followed that of many in his family. Both grandfathers made their way through the rank of Life Scout and his father, uncles Drs. Howard Rubin and Jay Rubin and three cousins have taken the Eagle Scout oath.

“Sam has come through so much and it wasn’t always easy, but life’s most important lessons don’t necessarily come easy. Scouting is about finding strength, reaching milestones and gaining independence. Sam has achieved his best,” said his father, Paul, a pediatric dentist in Frisco.

Sam dedicated his Eagle Scout project for his school since the new campus needed playground equipment. Sam’s answer? Connecting scouting and Gaga, all-American traditions he treasures.

“I love my school so much; I wanted to give back to the place that I’ve been all my life,” said Sam.

“I had to come up with an idea, plan and execute it, while showing I could lead others. I’m thankful for the assistance of fellow members of my troop, my family and faculty,” said Sam. With their help he built a pit for Gaga, a ball game that originated at JCC Camp Milldale, near Baltimore. Sam learned to play at Camp Simcha at the Aaron Family JCC and at Camp Sabra in Missouri.

“I love that this young man and so many love the game and [that he] wanted to build it for his school. I just meant to keep them together in one place and not chase them. We had Israeli counselors who took the game back to Israel and now it’s popular around the world. As a former Scout, I love that Sam found it worthy of his dedication,” Steven Steinberg said from his home in Maryland. In 1975, Steinberg created the beloved game, first as a solution while he was a counselor of young campers.

At Shelton, Will Riemer, also an Eagle Scout; Clay Houston, Shelton’s technical director; and Christine Davis, the mother of two Eagle Scouts and one of Sam’s first teachers, helped him make the project a reality.

“Sam and I have ‘traveled’ Shelton together because we’ve been connected since he was an early childhood student. He’s always been curious, engaging, active and he’s always had a strong work ethic. That Sam, who is a reflection of his incredible family, his faith family, his Shelton family and his community, wanted to serve his school and to watch the young children, especially the pride of his brothers when others are enjoying the court, is just terrific,” said Davis, now principal of Shelton’s Lower School.

The Gaga pit is a hit at Shelton.

“Kids are in the Gaga pit  every day — there’s always a line — and really, we could use a second court so … maybe, there’s a future Eagle Scout who would like to build on Sam’s gift, which makes so many happy on a daily basis,” said Davis.

For Riemer, who was Sam’s fifth-grade adviser and English teacher, being a part of this “moment” for Sam takes him back to his own scouting years. Being by Sam’s side is one very prideful time in Riemer’s career.

“Sam has always been inquisitive and wanting to know so much about so much. That speaks directly at what it means to be an Eagle Scout. He is sweet-natured, he cares about his family and he’s just a great kid you have to gravitate to,” said Riemer. Riemer earned the rank of Eagle Scout in Dallas’ Troop 125 by hosting a canned goods drive for the North Texas Food Bank.

For Sam’s Uncle Jay, an ophthalmologist in San Antonio who belongs to Temple Beth El, the memories and the benefits of Scouting that have followed him through life are emotional, tangible and immeasurable.

“From the surgical knots I make regularly, to the foundation of life, Scouting is ever-present. Watching Sam take his oath, and to have watched him come so far, is something I am incredibly proud of,” said Jay, the father of two Eagle Scouts.

Jay added that his hard work and the leadership he learned while earning the rank of Eagle Scout have helped him in other areas.

“When I was applying to medical school, the interviewer let me know it was my Eagle Scout honors that held me above others. Most scouts don’t realize ‘in the moment’ the impact a single badge or campout might have, but together these are experiences for life,” Jay Rubin said.

Sam’s Uncle Howard, a dermatologist in Dallas and member of Temple Emanu-El, like his brothers, spent years as a counselor at Boy Scout camps.

“I’m proud of the generations that have carried Scouting as far as they have, of all of our children,” said Howard, one of whose sons is also an Eagle Scout. “Scouting teaches life skills, respect, responsibility and provides exposure to the outdoors — and all the lessons learned there. To watch Sam join us now through his commitment and efforts is just fantastic.”

Among those beaming with pride during his Court of Honor was Sam’s mother, Staci.

“Scouting prepares you for life, in so many ways, and Sam took on the challenges and he has succeeded. There’s nothing fast about the process — very little is easy — but he never gave up, he never gave in. In the end he’s left something very important to him. In leaving the Gaga pit for the school, he’s left something lasting, both physical and of himself,” she said.

For “Mimi” Samylu, kvelling is the understatement as she’s watched two generations, and is looking forward to the next, as they follow the lead she and her husband proposed.

“We raised our boys in a very small town with not a lot to do and we didn’t want them in trouble,” she said. “Our priorities were raising good men and good Jews so we had them in Boy Scouts and at Temple Israel in Schulenberg, B’nai Israel in Victoria and Temple Emanu El in Houston. They all became Eagle Scouts and they all blew the shofar in the temple.

“They’ve learned so much about life, how to take care of themselves,” said Samylu, “and they’ve each met some incredible people along the way.”

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