As you are well aware, Tawonga is so much more than a summer camp. Thank you for being a part of our very special community that lifts us up, infuses meaning into our lives and connects us to nature, Judaism and each other.
Whether you’re an alum, donate to Tawonga, send your child to Camp, join us Down the Mountain – or all of the above – we hope you’ll take pride in all we have accomplished together over the past year.
This report honors the real milestones our community reached in 2018, including graduating our very first cohort of Tawonga Bar & Bat Mitzvah students, serving more people year-round (locally and at Camp) than ever before and providing deeper opportunities for teens to engage and find their footing.
Tawonga continues to champion broader inclusion, including celebrating two decades of Keshet LGBTQ Family Camp this past year. As climate change looms larger, Tawonga keeps putting environmental sustainability at the forefront of enhancements to our beautiful (and also aging) property on the Tuolumne River, as you’ll see in this video on our new Central Bathhouse.
We are so grateful to every one of you who supported Tawonga last year and are particularly pleased to acknowledge four long-term donors. Thank you for your partnership and for contributing to the transformative gift of Camp and its positive impact on our world. Enjoy!
Our superb summer staff was the secret sauce to Tawonga’s magic in 2018. Dedicated, loving and highly trained, these talented young professionals created life-changing experiences for campers all season.
Doubling Down on Inclusion
Creating an inclusive, diverse community and embracing the individuality of every child and adult is core to our mission. Fueled by our 2018 Annual Fund donations, we were able to deepen our support of all campers and meet the broad needs of our community.
In 2018 we doubled down on these efforts. We hired four staff members to focus on inclusion in a new position called “inclusion specialist.” Through training, modeling and extra support, they made sure every child was seen, welcomed and valued. At the start of the summer, one of these specialists said, “I won’t feel satisfied in my work until every child feels at home at Camp Tawonga. This is my goal and entire focus for the summer.”
After 10 weeks of supporting our campers through one-on-one coaching, small group work and staff training, another inclusion specialist said, “ I am so proud of the work we did this summer. In other settings, children requiring extra attention are often left out and ignored. At Tawonga, they’re getting the opportunity to gain self-esteem, build community and feel valued for who they are.”
This work is just beginning. We are consciously cultivating an environment where everyone feels included, empowered and safe. We understand that this kind of community-building is an ongoing process, and we embrace the time, energy and commitment it takes to make it happen. The ultimate strength of our community lies in the openness and rich backgrounds that our participants bring to it. We are excited about the work ahead and deeply committed to every child finding a home at Tawonga.
Teens Step Up at Camp and Beyond
In its second year, our Teen Leadership Institute (TLI) – a program at Camp focused on leadership development, service and outdoor experiences – more than doubled in size with 23 participants. Over the course of three weeks, teens felt empowered to work together, think critically, learn outdoor leadership skills and become responsible members of their communities.
Sixteen-year-old Laylena Zipkin said that, “Participating in TLI gave me the chance to experience how all of the parts of Camp work together and how Tawonga in turn connects us to the broader community and earth.” She added, “As a result of TLI, I am much more aware of how my actions can impact others and our world, and I am a better person because of it.”
Laylena and the teens bonded through an intensive 15-mile backpacking trip in Yosemite, gave back to Camp through facility enhancement projects (including a new frisbee golf course!), helped staff members plan the epic all-Camp Earth Day program and participated in a meadow restoration project with the Tuolumne River Trust.
“We owe Tawonga and your teens a debt of gratitude,” said Seth Connolly, Restoration Manager for the Tuolumne River Trust. “Meadows play a huge role in the health of forests and wildlife, and these teens contributed to what would have taken our staff two to three weeks to complete. This work seriously helped to build up our capacity to undertake more meadow restoration projects with the U.S. Forest Service.”
As more teens crave Tawonga experiences and leadership opportunities, close to 30 teens will take part in TLI this coming summer.
Life Abounds in the Garden
Since its expansion in 2017, the Tawonga garden is thriving. In 2018, staff and campers filled our 12 new beds with heirloom tomatoes, basil, sweet peppers, fennel, cilantro and beets – doubling the food production space in the garden!
With the addition of a second cooking area adjacent to the garden shed, multiple bunks enjoyed the garden at the same time. While one group made fresh goat cheese in the shaded kitchen area, another mixed homemade salves with medicinal garden-grown plants and a third bunk pedaled furiously on the bike-powered blender to make smoothies while acting out the local and global food systems.
Campers made herbal teas and crushed concord grapes to make homemade juice. They cracked fresh eggs from the chickens into sizzling pans of garden tomatoes and herbs to make shakshuka, guided by our Israeli staff. The learning was endless: campers splashed vinegar into warm fresh goat milk and watched it curdle, then strained the solids from the liquids and shared in a snack of goat cheese and crackers. They discussed food systems, biodiversity, Kosher laws, native species and fermentation. On Friday mornings, campers harvested fresh greens, tomatoes and herbs for Shabbat dinner.
Three new specialists joined the garden team in 2018 to keep pace with the increasing demand for garden programs and requirements of a larger physical space.
Also enjoying the expansion are more animals! Fifteen bunnies took up residence in beautiful hutches built by our Buildings and Grounds team – while the nearby farm became home to 15 chickens and two goats. Campers loved quiet time with the bunnies and caring for the farm animals.
A haven for hands-on learning, Tawonga’s garden and farm continued to bring the richness and wonder of the natural world within reach.
- Video Spotlight -
Celebrating 20 Years of Keshet
From Babies to Grandparents, Tawonga’s Joyous Judaism Grows in the Bay
As more families report that Camp Tawonga is their primary Jewish affiliation, the demand for our year-round Bay Area programming continues to grow. In 2018, we expanded local family programming, enriched the Tawonga Bar & Bat Mitzvah Program and launched a teen internship program. The Tawonga magic is alive and well down the mountain!
Through Jewish holiday celebrations, tot shabbats and family volunteer days, Tawongans of all ages connected with each other and their Jewish community throughout 2018.
A record 1,270 people came out to our Erev Rosh Hashanah Celebration in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park – the largest-ever gathering of Tawongans – yasher koach!
Deepening Impact: Tawonga Bar & Bat Mitzvah Program
2018 marked the third year of Tawonga’s Bar & Bat Mitzvah Program, which has evolved from a 58-student pilot program in 2015 into a 114-strong, expertly-developed immersive experience.
At the helm of the program, Meg Adler (MA in Divinity from Yale) and Deborah Newbrun (2018 Covenant Award recipient) have brought deep Jewish knowledge and a dynamic, creative approach to this Jewish rite of passage.
Designed for families who might not otherwise consider a bar or bat mitzvah for their children (40% of our Bar & Bat Mitzvah families are interfaith, and only 32% belong to a synagogue), the program connects students and families to Jewish history, traditions, values and community.
The enriched curriculum, including social justice field trips with Save the Bay and Alemany Farm, elevates Jewish learning. Students study torah, prayers and teachings while questioning at every turn and contemplating how Jewish concepts relate to their own lives. Honest conversation and inquiry rooted in Jewish values pave a path toward Jewish adulthood.
Three Years / Three Voices
Three years in, here are three voices sharing different perspectives on Tawonga’s Bar & Bat Mitzvah Program:
“Since our son Dylan joined the Tawonga B'nai Mitzvah program, we've seen a shift in his spirituality. The sessions have pushed him to think about life's big questions and consider what Judaism might mean in his own life."
"Recently, Dylan had a sleepover at my mom's house on a Friday, and she asked if he'd like to go to a movie. He asked if they could celebrate Shabbat instead. They got a challah and lit the candles together. It was a profoundly special experience for my mom. We are now trying to celebrate Shabbat whenever we can, and all of this is because of Dylan’s experience with this program.”
“I’m learning a lot more about what it means to be Jewish in this program. When I was little, I always wanted to be a part of this religion and hoped to have a bat mitzvah, but it sounded too hard and overwhelming. Tawonga’s program has been just right for me.”
“We teach our students to deeply consider every prayer, text or value we teach. Every lesson we ask, "what did you disagree with and why?" Jewish education is not only teaching Jewish things, but teaching how to interpret and question our massive tradition in fresh and authentic ways.”
Teens Take on Tawonga’s First Internship
Knowing that Tawonga teens crave deeper engagement with their Camp community throughout the year, we responded with a brand new Down the Mountain program in September 2018: Tawonga Teen Interns.
Just eight months in, this program for 10th - 12th graders has taken off! Bay Area teens have developed leadership skills and gained paid work experience in youth service within the Jewish community while building powerful relationships with peers and mentors.
Our most invested teens make up our Teen Advisory Board to help steer the program. Over the course of four Tawonga Family Camp Weekends, our teens served as counselors, mentored by seasoned Tawonga staff. They also worked in the Bay Area at our Erev Rosh Hashanah event, community Hanukkah celebrations, Tawonga Bar & Bat Mitzvah retreat and as teaching assistants in our Bar & Bat Mitzvah classes.
Social events and work opportunities have been well attended with meaningful impact. Teen intern Molly C. reflected, “At Family Camp, I learned a lot about working with young kids and babies. I want to be a teacher when I graduate from college, so this program is important to me. Working with other teens and counselors has taught me how to collaborate better.”
The focused mentorship provided by Tawonga staff is teaching our teens real-life skills: recruitment, program planning, leadership and relationship building. It’s working: our 2018 Teen Winter Retreat had the highest enrollment since its launch in 2016. Sixty-one teens attended this year’s retreat compared to 37 in 2017 and 40 in 2016.
Teen Intern Ben W. summed it up like this: "At the Tawonga Bar & Bat Mitzvah retreat, I gained confidence as a leader by facilitating discussions and leading programs while still having fun and making friends. I learned so much about the power of building safe, loving communities and how to be vulnerable and relatable while still serving as a leader."
We are deeply grateful to the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation, in partnership with The Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay, and with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation for making this new program possible.
Alumni Connect through Service, Seder and Shabbat
Our Young Alumni Board, now in its third year, works to keep the Tawonga spark alive for alumni between the Tawonga staff years and the Family Camp years. Traditions including the Spring Service Weekend and Alumni Seder continued in 2018, and a new initiative was hatched: a multi-city Shabbat event!
Staff Alumni Bear Fruit at Spring Service Weekend
In March 2018, Tawonga staff alumni and volunteers planted 100 trees on Tawonga’s property at the second annual Spring Service Weekend.
For some participants, it was their first time back to Camp in many years. The group planted Black Oaks, Ponderosa Pines and Incense Cedars near the challenge course. They also planted olive trees, pomegranate trees and raspberry vines in the newly expanded area of the garden.
Maya Amichai, who volunteered during the weekend, reflected, “It felt truly rejuvenating to spend the weekend connecting with and contributing to a place that gives so much.”
Young Alumni Seder
During Passover 2018, 30 Tawonga alumni gathered for a social justice-themed seder at Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Participants recited the age-old story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt while reflecting on current social justice issues. Our passionate young alumni remind us that nobody is free until everybody is free – and that there’s still so much work to do.
Nearly 100 Tawonga alums gathered in 10 cities across the country for the first-ever Tawonga@Home Alumni Shabbat in November 2018.
A broad swath of Tawongans and their friends gathered for a memorable evening of Jewish community, reuniting and, of course, really good food.
“Young alumni exist all over the world and are constantly moving,” noted Young Alumni Board Co-Chair Perry Fox. “That’s why we wanted to create an experience for our alumni wherever they are to gather and reconnect with each other.”
Many alums recognized the importance of community during this post-camp, pre-family period of life. One participant shared, “The best part of the night was feeling Tawonga away from Camp, engaging with other Jewish adults and actually having the space to connect with my Judaism with people my age.”
New Central Bathhouse Open
Campers in summer 2018 were the first to use the beautiful new Central Bathhouse. It has all the features you would expect from Tawonga’s commitment to the environment, inclusion and maintaining the rustic nature of our site. (Watch the video to see for yourself!)
The building was able to easily accommodate whole cabin groups at once (of 12 kids each) for brushing teeth, taking showers and washing up for meals. Kids who preferred more privacy loved using the “homestyle” private bathrooms that are open to all genders. They all enjoyed seeing the natural wood finishes made from Tawonga cedars and the camper art and murals, salvaged from the old Boys’ Bathhouse built in the 1960s. Nothing like a little Camp history to spruce up a building!
The versatile layout of the fully insulated new Bathhouse provided a much improved experience for Family Camp participants as well. The unique design has six different entrance doors, allowing us to change the layout and the gender configurations from program to program and accommodate more people. Plus, the new septic and grey water systems align with our environmental sustainability goals.
Teen Winter Retreat campers got a kick out of using the new radiant floor heating system which kept the Bathhouse warm and toasty during their chilly December program. Eventually, this winterized facility will allow us to offer more year-round Camp experiences.
New Camper Cabins Rise
Work began on four new cabins in fall 2018. As history and tradition are important at Camp Tawonga, before demolishing the 50-year-old outdated cabins of G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4, we photographed the locations of all the camper-made plaques and saved them for re-installation in the new cabins. The new cabins will offer an equitable camper experience across all age groups.
The bunks will look just like the rest of the surrounding Girls Side cabins, with copious windows and — this is huge for the kids — a front porch large enough for the whole cabin group to pull out their mattresses and camp out under the stars. The cabins will also be fully insulated to make them both cooler in the summer and warmer in the spring and fall.
One other feature of the new cabins just for Family Camp participants will be a pair of electrical outlets to meet the needs of our youngest and oldest campers – whether a baby monitor or sleep apnea machine. This outlet is hidden inside the cabin, unnoticeable, to retain the rustic Tawonga camper experience.
Dining Hall Remodel Begins
The U.S. Forest Service’s Climate Change Resource Center urges land managers like Tawonga to take seriously “the climate changes happening now.” In 2018, we took note, breaking ground on an eco-friendly remodel of our Dining Hall. This project will accommodate our growing Camp population while addressing climate issues.
As summers are now hotter and drier, we are creating novel ways to keep this iconic gathering space comfortable for our entire Camp community. For summer 2019, we are combining an evaporative cooling system with a louvered ceiling vent to provide fresh, cool air and eliminate the need for a traditional closed-loop air conditioning system.
For the cooler months, the remodeled Dining Hall will have the same eco-friendly radiant floor heating system that we just completed in the Central Bathhouse. Family Camp parents will appreciate this energy-saving method, and toddlers will delight in the new warm tot corners.
The square footage of the Dining Hall will grow by 16%, pushing its southern wall toward the direction of Arts & Crafts to accommodate all diners more comfortably and to allow for four more tables – all while maintaining the building’s classic woodsy feel. Our renovated Dining Hall will enable us to keep pace with changes in the climate and sustain this central gathering space.
Fees cover just 80% of what it costs to provide Camperships, design innovative programming and maintain our 166-acre property.
Donations bridge the gap and make Tawonga accessible to everyone.
Dedicated Donors Spotlight
I Give Because
"Giving is the right thing to do. Tawonga impacted my life in such a positive way. I want to do whatever I can to allow another kid to have that experience or to make that experience better."
"I just feel like Camp needs to be available to as many people as possible. If anyone can make a difference by providing the opportunity for a young person to feel a sense of belonging, they should. I see it as a moral obligation, especially for those of us who experienced it ourselves."
"Tawonga has impacted my admiration for the earth, my ethics of Tikkun Olam and leaving no trace – all of it is part of my daily life. My connection to Judaism and most of my Jewish education came from Camp Tawonga. Tawonga has also impacted my view that there are many ways to be a strong woman."
"I own a food business now, and the Tawonga motto that “food is king” plays into my work and my perspective that food is at the center of the wheel of our society, affecting everything – the environment, our health and our world. Through food, I am trying to leave a better world for our children."
I Give Because
"I am eternally grateful for the financial assistance I received when my son Josh was a camper. There was no way I could have afforded Camp as a single mom without that scholarship every year."
"I give to pay it forward for other kids with single moms and families living on a low budget. Every time a child is out in nature, without technology, with counselors who are completely there for them, the earth is blessed, we are all blessed."
"Tawonga gave Josh a really wonderful outdoor experience. He loved the music, camping, being outside – he loved everything about it. Because he didn’t have siblings, he loved being with a close group of boys. Seeing his joy and knowing that he was having a spiritual experience was really meaningful to me. Josh came back more confident every summer. I never wondered if Josh was going to be happy at Camp – it was always a given for me."
I Give Because
"My father passed away when I was young, and the only reason I was able to go to camp was through the generosity of families who donated to camperships at my synagogue. Camp was so impactful for me."
"For those of us who have the ability to give back, it’s our responsibility to fund these programs so that marginalized and less privileged families can have those experiences. It’s part of the ethics of camp."
"Programatically, Tawonga has everything that is really important to me: the beauty, the vibe, the freedom kids have to explore in a communal setting and the relaxed Jewish component. I appreciate the balance of a strong programmatic format done in a very relaxed atmosphere – ideological but not dogmatic. Tawonga finds the middle ground in terms of Jewishness."
"My mother in law was always so impressed with our daughter’s Tawonga experience. She started giving to Tawonga regularly, too, even though she’d never been there. We honor her memory now with our gifts."
We Give Because
"Giving consistently is an important priority for us. Programmatically, we’ve seen Tawonga evolve every year to better meet the changing needs of families and children - and evolution costs money."
"We also believe in and have experienced the transformative potential of Tawonga, and we want families with financial challenges to not only have the ability to send their kids to camp, but to Tawonga in particular. Giving to Tawonga is the most direct way of doing Tikkun Olam, of helping to repair the world."
"Tawonga has filled a very unique place in our lives. At Tawonga, our kids feel a genuine sense of connection as Jews, as a family with two moms and as quadruplets. Keshet especially has had a profound impact on our kids because they don’t have to explain their family structure or have their guard up. They are included in the fabric of Tawonga, and that has given us all a sense of belonging."
Tawonga Legacy Society
Our Legacy Society members secure Camp’s future by making Tawonga a philanthropic priority. Thank you to our members – your investment is deeply appreciated.
Tawonga Legacy Society members have made a bequest or planned gift in their estate plans.
|Adam Alcabes||Darin Freitag||Michelle & Sue Kletter||Norman Schlossberg|
|Ari A. Baruth||Steve Gershik||Ken & Felicia Kramarz||Renee Samson|
|Adam Berman||Melinna Askin Gershik||Marilyn* & Steve Lazar||Randall Schwartz|
|Jen & Jon Boxerman||Jordan Gill||Josh Leslie||Larissa (Lara) Siegel|
|Gabrielle Bressack||Len Goldberg||Roger M. Low||Lori Silverstein|
|Barbara & Lawrence Cahn||Nicole Goldstein||Aaron Mandel||Stella Sedletskaya|
|Melissa Cahn||Ann Gonski & John Scott||Rebecca L. Meyer||Libby & Frank Silver|
|Steve Catechi||Norm* & Squeek Grabstein*||Sydney Mintz||Jamie Simon|
|Jessica Chizen||Richard Grabstein & Harriette Unger||Eva & Ernest Newbrun||Katelyn Rose Simons|
|Heather Robert Coffman||Jeff Greendorfer||Joyce Newstat||Ben Simrin|
|David E. Coffman||Harold Grinspoon||Barbara Niss||Nora Smith|
|Eleanor & Ralph* Coffman||Rabbi Sholom Groesberg||Erick Ordin & Miriam Marx Ordin||Diane Stern & Alejandro Quintana|
|Cohen Family||Robert Heller*||Elise Peck||Judy Stern & Dan Mihalovich|
|Jessica Colvin||Rachael Henderson||Brian Permutt||Melanie Wartenberg|
|Kenneth* & Thelma Colvin||Jed Herman||Avi & Sarah Perna||Sharon & Joshua Weinberg|
|Ashley & Jamie Costello||Sheila & Ned Himmel||Caitlin Quinn||Adam Weisberg|
|Ilana Drummond||Yeva Johnson & Michael Potter||Eric Raznick & Tracey Erwin||Marilyn* & Raymond Weisberg|
|Susan & Bill Epstein||Ryley Katz||Sue Reinhold & Deborah Newbrun||Lisa & Matthew Wertheim|
|Denise Feinsod||Nina Kaufman & Dan Kaplan||Monica Pallie Rocchino||Brian Wise|
|Philip & Lisa Feldman||Gene & Susan Kaufman||Saul & Barbara Rockman||Harold & Mary Zlot|
|Michael & Anna Fogelman||Rachael Kirk-Cortez||Gregg Ivan Bernell Rubenstein|
|Perry Kayla Fox||Joseph & Leslie Kleitman||John F. Sampson|
2018 Annual Fund Donors
These individuals and organizations supporting Camp Tawonga’s Annual Fund are the true changemakers and creators of impact for so many children, families and young adults. Your support means everything. Thank you!
Tawonga Board of Directors
Stacy Mason, President
Jeff Zlot, Vice President
Ezra Berman, Treasurer
Deborah Wexler, Secretary
Seth Leslie, Member-at-Large
Rabbi Mychal Copeland
Marcy Scott Lynn
Mike Potter, M.D.
Richard S. Goldman*
Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel, Jr.*
Robert D. Heller*
Kenneth J. Colvin*
Thomas L. Frankel
John F. Sampson
Herbert B. Goodman, M.D.
Lewis Tanenbaum, M.D.
*Of blessed memory