If you have been to the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta lately, you may have noticed the tall, white menorah standing at its entrance. That menorah was created by Dunwoody native and 18-year-old Adam Arno as his Eagle Scout project. This will be the second year that it stands at the entrance to the community center.
Adam worked with Rick Murphy, the facilities director at the MJCCA, and learned that they needed a new menorah. Murphy said that the current one was getting old and could use a replacement. So Adam got to work building a new one.
The menorah is 6-by-8 feet and made from painted white wood. The candles are made from stair spindles, and at the top of each candle is an LED bulb that looks like a flame. A wire runs down the middle of each candle, and a box at the back of the menorah controls the lights with a switch for each candle. A mason jar encases each candle to protect it from the elements.
“He went through many different lightbulbs because he wanted to make sure it had the right flicker,” said Sheryl Arno, Adam’s mother.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is a huge accomplishment and takes years of work. Just getting to the point where you can become an Eagle Scout takes hiking 150 miles, camping out 79 nights, and a host of other requirements. The scout must plan, execute, design, and manage every aspect of the project from start to finish, and the final product must be beneficial to the community in some way.
“Many people decide to do benches, but I wanted to do something a little bit closer to home,” Adam said. “I wanted to do something that was meaningful to me, and that could also help the community.”
When speaking on why he decided to build a menorah, Adam recalls Chanukah growing up, which was always very important and festive to his family. It began with another big menorah, built by a family friend.
Family friend and neighbor, a woodworker whom Adam fondly calls “Uncle Jeff,” built the family a menorah of the same size as the JCC one for the front of their house 20 years ago. Since then, they have become the “Chanukah House” of Dunwoody. Before COVID-19, the family hosted parties every Chanukah that sometimes had up to 200 people. Sheryl says that “lines of cars” would come around every year to look at the menorah.
Adam, who is a part of Boy Scout Troop 764, says that being a part of Boy Scouts helped him grow as a leader and as a person. He has served as an assistant patrol leader and helped with a lot of “behind the scenes” leadership such as planning and executing fundraisers for the troop.
Adam decided to build the menorah for the JCC because of the impact the agency had on his childhood. He calls it his “Jewish home,” starting at Camp Isidore Alterman 15 years ago.
Due to having ADHD, Adam needed a little extra help adjusting to camp and maneuvering around. Sheryl helped pioneer the inclusion program at the camp with the help of a Clay Aiken grant. The program included Adam and about six others and helped children who needed a little extra attention during camp.
The inclusion program helped Adam transition over the next three years and slowly weened him off extra assistance to where he could navigate camp on his own.
After the transition, Adam was able to attend Camp Barney Medintz without any assistance. Camp Barney became instrumental in his Jewish upbringing; he spent seven summers at camp, and even had his bar mitzvah at camp during the summer. Since then, his involvement in the Jewish community has flourished, and he is an active member of BBYO.
“The JCC helped shape my Judaism and who I am as a person,” Adam said. “It also helped me learn and grow as a leader.”
A senior at Dunwoody High School, he plans to major in Organizational Psychology, a branch of psychology often used by businesses to help with teambuilding and working together as groups in an organization.