For over a decade, Tawonga has provided a “living bridge” between Jewish youth in the Bay Area and in Israel through our Noar l’Noar program. Over the years, hundreds of Israeli teens and young adults have come to Tawonga as campers or as staff, and thousands of American campers and staff have been able to make deep and lasting friendships with them.
Unfortunately, Camp Tawonga is not able to run the Noar l’Noar program during the 2016 season due to funding challenges. This will hopefully be a one-year hiatus from the program, as we are currently and actively seeking funds to cover the costs of this important Tawonga program to resume in 2017. If you have any questions about Noar l’Noar or our related fundraising efforts, please reach Lisa at (415) 5443-2267 or [email protected]
The Noar program brings together diverse groups of young Israelis and Americans—Jewish, Christian and Muslim—for intensive immersion experiences at Camp Tawonga and in Israel.
These young leaders are comprised of three cohorts:
- Israeli Youth: Ethiopian, Arab, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Israelis teens (aged 14-16) who travel to the Bay Area and integrate into the group of 300 Bay Area youngsters attending Tawonga’s Session IV summer camp.
- Israeli Shlichim: Equally diverse young Israelis who have just completed their national service (aged 21-25) come to camp as staff. They join 160 college-aged summer staff at Camp Tawonga and in turn connect with 2,000 children and parents participating in immersion programs at Tawonga.
- American Teen Service Learners: Bay Area teens (aged 16-17) who travel to Israel for four weeks of Teen Service Learning and community engagement in the home communities of the Israeli cohort. They then fly back to San Francisco to share their experiential learning with the 300 campers of Tawonga’s Session IV.
At camp our American kids take part in Israel Day Celebrations, informational workshops, and cultural programs offered by the Israelis while sharing wilderness adventures with them in Yosemite backpacking trips. These bonding experiences form the basis of a lifetime of positive feelings about Israel and her people. Many campers become inspired to study in Israel, join a Birthright trip or experiment with living in Israel.
As Tawonga campers reach high school, they are eligible to travel to Israel to do community service work and learn more about our homeland. In Israel, they do meaningful service work in Ethiopian communities, which are some of the neediest in Israel. These leadership teens return from Israel and share their new energy and love for Israel with the younger children at camp in fun and fascinating at-camp activities.
The Israeli youth who come to Tawonga not only teach Americans about Israel, they also learn about themselves and about others in ways that are difficult or impossible to do at home. At home in Israel, there is virtually no place where such a religiously and ethnically diverse collection of youth would actually live and interact together. Camp provides a unique opportunity to get to know fellow Israelis though the magic of the group adventure in nature. When this amazingly diverse group of Sabras, Ethiopians, Russians and Arab Israelis comes to Camp Tawonga, they are carefully integrated into the larger camper population in ways that enable them to matriculate through the camp program like their American counterparts, while simultaneously building their own sense of pride and confidence.
Israelis learn new tools at Tawonga to deal with cultural challenges at home. Tawonga is a great model for American-style pluralism and acceptance in which each person is cherished as a unique individual with something valuable to contribute. The Israelis learn experientially how we handle tolerance and diversity in daily life at Tawonga, and this helps them work towards peaceful coexistence in their lives back home.
Finally, at Tawonga, the Israelis discover a joyous Judaism that is non-denominational, focused on spirituality and community. At Tawonga, they are immersed in a culture imbued with Jewish values and ideas that are transmitted in non-traditional, totally inclusive ways. For them, it opens whole new vistas of what being Jewish can mean.
Noar l’Noar—Youth to Youth—is our best hope for the next generation of Americans and Israelis to connect, love and care about each other.