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Ben Sagerman

If leadership means to see a problem where no one else does, and then take the initiative to solve it, Ben Sagerman is definitely a leader.

The 17-year-old high school junior loved the experience of outdoor prayer he experienced at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp Eisner – and wanted to make that experience possible for his fellow congregants at Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge.

So he built an outdoor sanctuary, a small ampitheater, in an empty space on Avodat Shalom’s property.

He solicited $3,000 in donations. This paid for a landscaper, who brought in a Bobcat to dig out a pathway; half a dozen wooden benches; and mulch. Following three and a half months of planning and fund-raising, seven hours of work completed the project.

Building the outdoor sanctuary served as the required community service component of receiving an Eagle Badge from the Boy Scouts of America. The award was given at a ceremony in the sanctuary on Sunday, and culminated a scouting career that began when he joined the Cub Scouts in first grade.

He is not only a scout; he also has been elected president of the New Jersey region of the National Federation of Temple Youth. His involvement with NFTY followed his first summer at Camp Eisner five years ago.

Sagerman says he “couldn’t imagine” not having both NFTY and the Boy Scouts as part of his high school career.

“Each has taught me so much. NFTY has taught me to really think for myself, and who I am as a person. Boy Scouts has taught me leadership experience and how to work with other boys and so many skills in life,” he says.