A Taste of Camp

A Delicious Taste of Tawonga!

Greetings from Day 2 of A Taste of Camp – our first session of the summer! We wait all year to welcome our summer campers to Tawonga and are so thrilled the moment has finally come. Our 160-acre property is looking beautiful, the Tuolumne River that runs through Camp is flowing, the kitchen is stocked and our staff are ready

Yesterday, as nearly 300 campers bounded off the buses one by one, our staff sang out a favorite Tawonga tune to welcome the kids to our loving Camp community (you may know this one):

“We welcome you to Camp Tawonga, mighty glad you’re here. We’ll send the air reverberating with a mighty cheer. We’ll sing you in, we’ll sing you out! For you we’ll raise a mighty shout! Hail, hail, the gang’s all here, Camp Tawonga welcomes you. One, a-two, a-one, two, three, four!”

Right away, giddy campers received their cabin assignments and met their loving counselors and the bunkmates they will be living and playing alongside for the next week. The first day of Camp is all about getting the campers settled into their bunk group, which is a sacred unit that is core to the Tawonga experience and how we build a cooperative community. Next up, campers embarked on their “havurah (small group) hikes to get oriented to key areas around Camp and the staff who lead them. 

We also have a special, experienced group of Tawongans this session (and next session): 51 Specialists and Counselors-in-Training! Tawonga’s SCIT program is a summer gem for rising 12th graders who are looking to work with campers and develop leadership and tangible skills. This week, our SCITs will be in training mode, learning about the ins and outs of working with kids at Tawonga, and specifically, how to foster the mission for campers. 

This session, about 70% of our campers are joining sleepaway camp at Tawonga for the first time. Lucky for them, our counselors’ primary job is to support the children all week long, making sure they’re making friends, feeling comfortable and having fun. We are beyond thrilled to introduce these campers to everything Camp has to offer (a “taste,” if you will). This includes activities with their bunk (12 campers and 2 counselors) like arts and crafts, cooking in the garden, games in our olympic sized pool, river dips, boating, archery and so much more. This is just a small sampling of the wide range of flavors Tawonga offers during daily activities.

Each day, no matter the program, the intention behind the activity is for campers to feel and experience the mission: fostering positive self-esteem, creating a cooperative community, connecting with nature and building positive Jewish identity.

Speaking of Jewish identity, at Tawonga, campers can join in to sing blessings before and after meals in the dining hall, and they can follow along with the words written on big plaques on the walls. Last night before dinner, we chanted the Hamotzi before we ate, and the Birkat Hamazon after. These blessings also come with some fun hand motions too, since after all, this is summer camp. 

Campers capped the night off with a rousing song session, including our Tawonga classic, “Country Roads,” as well as a camper fave, “B’tzelem Elohim.” From there, staff from different departments entertained campers at the opening campfire with skits and songs. Before saying good night, we closed out with Hashkivenu, a prayer for a peaceful and restful night’s sleep, and of course, “Friends, Friends, Friends,” the song with which we close every Tawonga campfire.

Campers are already feeling more comfortable with their surroundings today, on their first full day of the session. Between meals (check out the kitchen menu below in our “Tawonga Tidbit”), bunks enjoyed activities galore, from water color at our “Secret Beach” river spot, to tie-dye at A&C to unit swims (with other like-aged bunks).

These campers are full of ruach (spirit) and are taking to Tawonga with flying colors. We can’t wait for what the rest of the session holds!

P.S. If you haven’t subscribed to Tawonga’s blog yet, you can do so here to catch a glimpse of the magic! We’ll be posting about twice a week to the blog this summer. Parents of campers, in addition, can see updates in their Campanion app. Learn more about how we share summer updates with the community here.