Guest Post By Takeshi Shiratori
On Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain there is a small Jewish community of around 20 people. They use the Chapel of Hope as a place to hold weekly Shabbat services and celebrate high holidays. The chapel has some Jewish prayer books, enough for every member of the community to have one and is relatively small. Last year the community was provided with a small Torah to use during services. The Torah was kept in a cardboard box with magnets to keep it closed.
The cardboard enclosure was difficult to use and wouldn’t stay open. At one point, the door even ripped. Needless to say, something needed to be done about it.
Around this time, I had become a Life Scout (one rank below Eagle) and started considering my Eagle project. Boy Scouts of America and Judaism are both important things in my life, and part of being a scout is giving back to the community. Another part is duty to God. I saw that I could combine these two things through my Eagle project and set out to build an ark for the Jewish community.
After my project idea was approved, the first step was planning. I created a basic sketch of what I wanted the ark to look like. I added dimensions to the sketch and then got to work on how to build it. I learned that to make sure the ark was stable, I would need to use pocket screws to keep the boards held together at an angle, and that in order to create nice boards, I would need to joint together wooden planks.
The next step after this was fundraising. I created a GoFundMe page and received more than $500. In addition, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council and the Association of Jewish Military and VA Chaplains donated $300 toward the ark.
Now that I had raised enough money, it was time to get to work. The first thing I did was find the wood I wanted to use for the ark. Originally, I had considered using oak wood or pine, but then found a better source of wood, and decided on Brazilian walnut, due to its darker hue and full grain.
With all the materials gathered, the members of Scout Troop 826 got together at the wood shop on base that the Sea Bees allowed us to use. We planed the wood to make it smoother and more appealing to the eye and joined the wood to create the boards we needed. The next step was to drill the holes that we would use to assemble the ark, then apply lacquer to the wood, and finally assemble it. Additionally, we also bought a small cart for the ark to be placed on, in order to make it movable. We applied wood stain to it so that it would match the color of the ark.
We delivered the finished product on May 24 and held a dedication ceremony for it on June 14.