It’s hard to become an Eagle Scout.
To reach that rank — the highest in boy scouting — candidates must do more than earn a minimum of 21 merit badges and demonstrate the proper spirit and attitude. They have to do that too, but the young man working toward that honor also must undertake an extensive service project that he organizes, leads, and manages himself.
That is no easy task — and to combine that mandate with a desire to benefit the Jewish community is harder still. Still, that is the task that 18-year-old Noah Mandelman of Montvale took upon himself, and he has completed it with honor.
Noah is a graduate of Pascack Hills High School and plans to spend his gap year in Israel before beginning his college studies at Binghamton. He and his family are members of Lake’s Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake.
“When I was deciding what I should do for my Eagle Scout project, I knew that I wanted to do something that would combine my temple and Boy Scout communities and leave a lasting impact on them,” Noah said. “I eventually came up with the idea of painting a mural on the retaining wall in the parking lot of Temple Emanuel to beautify this large and prominent space.
“I was looking for a project and Rabbi Monosov came up with the idea of painting the wall to beautify it.” (Loren Monosov is Emanuel’s rabbi.)
“I ran with it.”
But what to paint?
“When deciding what artwork I felt would be the best fit for the mural, I immediately turned to the stained glass windows in the main sanctuary of Temple Emanuel,” Noah said. “I contacted the artist, Nancy Katz, and she enthusiastically supported the idea and gave me permission to use her artwork.
“It had a large impact when it was installed in 2008,” Noah continued. “Basically, it’s the synagogue’s logo and is still talked about in sermons. It’s been a huge inspiration to the temple and has brought the community together.”
Despite deciding that his project would involve creating art, Noah had no real background in art. “But my Scout master had experience in contracting,” he said. “He knew that painting on the walls was not an option, but painting on panels would work.”
To test out different paints’ durability and suitability for outdoor use, an executive at a local Benjamin Moore store, Greg Hourdajian, worked with Noah. As part of the process, “I painted test PVC panels that Benjamin Moore tested in their labs to ensure its longevity outside against the elements, and I recommended paints that would look best and withstand outdoor conditions,” Mr. Hourdajian said.
Next, Noah’s team used a color wheel.
According to a report he wrote describing his project, “I printed out large, blown-up pictures of the windows, and with the help of a color wheel, I color-coded each and every shape,” using some 35 different colors. Then “I projected the images of the stained glass windows onto 8’x3’ PVC panels, traced them out, and then numbered each shape with the color that it corresponded to.”
“It became paint by numbers,” Noah said. “That made it easier for family, friends, and members of the temple to follow.” Painting was done in his garage, which was converted into a workshop. A coating of polyurethane was used to seal the images and “after the panels were painted, we mounted them onto the retaining wall by putting an aluminum frame onto the wall and then gluing the panels with silicon adhesive. “
Noah said that he didn’t expect Ricciardi Brothers paint store in Lodi to donate the paint, “but when they found out it was an Eagle Scout project, they did.”
He had expected to do fund-raising for the project, selling $5 blue and white wristbands reading “Eagle Scout Mural Troop 334,” the name of his Montvale Boy Scout troop.
“The main aspect of an Eagle Scout project is to make an impact on the community while showing leadership in working with other people,” Noah said. His project — which took about two years from planning to completion and involved some 57 people — “including boy scouts, temple members, family, and friends” — took 1,083 working hours to complete and showed Noah the incomparable value of teamwork.
Scouting has had a big impact on his life, Noah said. He has been a BSA member for more than 10 years and it has taught him both how to participate and how to lead. “Judaism is also a large part of who I am,” he said, noting that after becoming a bar mitzvah he continued his studies at the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies.
What is his take-away from the project?
“Get things done as soon as possible,” Noah said. “If you leave things until the last minute, it can get very stressful.” He has also learned how to direct volunteers and “how to delegate and make sure everyone gets involved.
“It wouldn’t have been possible to do by myself,” he said.
He had other commitments, and also learned how to split his time among various commitments. This summer, he worked this summer as a camp counselor at Spring Lake in Ringwood. “It was essential to have a lot of help,” he said.
Providing a project where people could come to socialize and meet each other was “profound, beyond my expectations,” Noah said. He already has received messages expressing pleasure at having another beautiful piece of artwork at the synagogue, calling the outdoor mural “beautiful and amazing.” He is pleased that the project was completed “just before the chagim, when most people.
“It will be a great thing for the community.”