Robin “Robby” Cohen, 63, has dedicated 55 years of his life to the Boy Scouts, first as a participant, and later as a volunteer.
Currently a member of Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation and resident of Baltimore City, Cohen grew up in an Orthodox family in Northwest Baltimore City. He had his bar mitzvah at Ner Tamid, located on Pimlico Road.
Cohen’s father, Bernard Cohen, had also been active in the Boy Scouts, having served as committee chair for Troop 97. Since its inception in 1948, the troop has met at Temple Oheb Shalom, which has since become Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom. Bernard Cohen died in 1993, and his commitment to the Scouts inspired Robby Cohen to become a volunteer as an adult. His mother, Harriett Cohen, who is 91 years old, also volunteered with the Boy Scouts while Cohen and his older brothers were growing up.
Cohen’s commitment to the Boy Scouts has been continuous.
“I was 7 or 8 years old when I started with Cub Pack 127, at Cross Country Elementary School,” Cohen said. “My father was the committee chair of the pack at that time, before he became committee chair of [Troop 97], and Mom served as a den leader.”
Cohen obtained the Eagle Scout rank from Troop 97 when he was 17, and he aged out of the Boy Scouts at 18 and became an adult leader.
In addition to volunteering with Troop 97, Cohen has also served in various roles at the district level. These roles have included serving as district commissioner, unit commissioner, district advancement committee, district member at large, assistant scoutmaster and troop committee member at the unit level. Cohen also served as vice-chair of the Baltimore Area Council Jewish Committee on Scouting.
Cohen has also volunteered at several Boy Scouts events at both the district and local council levels. In 2005, and also in 2010, he volunteered at the booth for the National Jewish Committee on Scouting for the National Jamboree staff, and he also volunteers for the Life to Eagle Training.
“My father taught me a lot,” Cohen said. “And I wanted to honor his memory by giving back to an organization that meant so much to him.”
Cohen said that scouting has always meant a lot to him as the program provides leadership training and tries to instill other values in kids that are useful later in life, such as teamwork and confidence building.
Cohen graduated from Northwestern High School in 1977 and obtained a B.S. in business from Frostburg State University in 1981. He then went to graduate school and earned a master’s in business from the University of Baltimore in 1983.
Cohen retired in 2017, after 32 years working in the federal government. He currently works part time in the Boy Scouts shop, located in Baltimore City, while continuing his volunteer work with the Scouts.
“I don’t have my own kids,” Cohen said. “But the Scouts are my kids. And even when they have grown up and moved on, they still stay in touch. I hear from several of my former Scouts as they reach various milestones in their lives — when they get married, when they get jobs and in several cases, when they get their doctorates.”
Cohen takes pride in helping to prepare Scouts for their Eagle Scout rank — the highest rank they can earn in the Boy Scouts. Earning that rank, Cohen explained, is highly regarded, even by potential employers.
“Similar to earning a college degree, it doesn’t mean you are the smartest, but it shows that you made a commitment,” Cohen said. “It shows a certain set of values, and you live by those values, and employers respect that. And I am doing my little part for youth in the Baltimore area to help them do that.”
Cohen has earned a number of awards for his volunteer service to the Boy Scouts, including the Commissioner Arrowhead Honor, Commissioner Excellence in Unit Service Award, the Distinguished Commissioner Award, Doctor of Commissioner Science, District Award of Merit, the Silver Beaver Award and the Chai Award from the Northeast Region of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.
Cohen continues to stay busy. He recently celebrated Troop 97’s 75th anniversary at Beth Tfiloh Camps on June 25.
“I love training the young men and young women in leadership development, and what I call, life skills,” Cohen said. “In addition to the fun stuff, like building a fire and camping trips, the goal is to make mensches out of them, to help make them into good people, following the values instilled in the Scouts’ oath and law.”