"Global warming is a very important topic," says Noah.
Noah Berman found his Bar Mitzvah project while listening to the radio as his dad drove him to school in Manhattan last spring. NPR’s story on the Conservancy’s Albemarle Climate Change Adaptation Project, featuring project director Brian Boutin, caught his attention.
“The story really intrigued me,” Noah, 13, explains. “It seemed like a great idea for my project. Global warming is a very important topic. Helping with this project could make a difference.”
As part of the Bar Mitzvah, or Jewish coming of age ritual, boys read from the Torah when they turn 13 years old. Noah’s reading dealt with Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai to find the Israelites worshiping statues. “Moses convinced God to give the Israelites a second chance. They didn’t need to be punished,” Noah says.
Noah’s dad Andy says linking the Torah reading to global warming and the controversy that surrounds that subject makes sense. “When Moses comes down there are lots of different forces trying to go against what Moses believes. He continues with what he thinks is right, without blaming anyone,” Andy says. “We just heard this guy (Boutin) who was speaking from his heart about global warming, and what could be done, without blaming anyone.”
So, the Berman family, which includes mother Julia and 11-year-old Eliza, made a trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, so that the whole family could volunteer for the project. They spent a day bagging oyster shells to build a new reef, which will help the shoreline deal with rising seas resulting from climate change.
This wasn’t a vacation. “When Noah selected this project, we all supported him,” Andy says. “We came to North Carolina as a family. We flew in, bagged oyster shells, and flew out.”
“They worked extra hard,” Boutin says. “They came down with a purpose. It wasn’t fun and games. They came to work. Noah worked especially hard. While other people were taking breaks, he was still working.”
Boutin says before the NPR story aired, he had no idea what its effect would be. “I knew we were reaching people beyond North Carolina. I had folks tell me ‘my grandma heard you.’ But, I didn’t realize that it would spur this desire to help.”
Boutin says several other volunteers joined the project because they heard NPR reporter Richard Harris’ story.
Noah says that the project represents something that people can come together around. On the days that he volunteered, a local Christian group also volunteered. “It wasn’t awkward,” he says. “We were just a group of people who care about the Earth and wanted to do some work.”
Debbie Crane is Director of Communications for the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.