“I think the best part of this weekend is all of the love,” one camper reflected to a staff member this past Saturday afternoon during Camp Tawonga’s Keshet LGBTQ Family Camp weekend. Now in its 18th year, this incredibly special weekend named after the Hebrew word for rainbow has grown steadily over the years as this community has bonded, arriving at our largest Keshet gathering yet of 166 participants.
Virtually every one of these 54 families who spent Thursday to Sunday on Tawonga’s beautiful property just outside of Yosemite is part of the LGBTQ community. Whether coming with or without kids, as singles, or as a family of two moms or two dads, Keshet participants joined together last weekend to create a powerful community of support, acceptance, and love.
We were so fortunate to have Keshet founder and former Tawonga Director, Deborah Newbrun with us, helping to lead the weekend, which is designed in a way that allows participants to experience the full range of Tawonga programs. The weekend is structured to incorporate time together as a family as well as separate kid and adult programming. During the day, kids participated in activities like cookie baking, Ga-ga, singing, and Arts & Crafts while adults chose from programs that included hiking along the Tuolumne River and specialized workshops facilitated by renowned educators exploring topics such as justice, parenting, and text study. Families “floated” in the afternoons, enjoying classic Tawonga activities together, followed by camp-wide programs like campfires, s’mores, and family talent shows.
One of the weekend’s highlights took place on Saturday evening as part of our specialized Shabbat programming when a panel of teens and staff members shared beautifully what it is like to be raised in a queer family. Moderated by Camp Director Jamie Simon-Harris, panelists reflected on their varied experiences and responded to questions from the audience on topics like relationships with their donor families and the nuanced challenges and opportunities of being a part of an LGBTQ family.
“It’s special to be able to hear these teens speak about their upbringing,” shared one Keshet parent, recognizing the impact of the discussion for both LGBTQ parents as well as kids. Indeed, Tawonga is meeting an important need in the community by hosting this beloved weekend. Time and time again, we hear how meaningful it is for participants to come to Keshet: “I love that my children get to be here because they are able to see so many other families just like us,” another parent said.
Towards the end of the weekend, a girl shared with Jamie that she had the best day of her life at Keshet. It must be all of that love!