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Tawonga’s Year-Round Team

Meet the Tawonga Team!

Our dedicated professional staff together make up a phenomenal team with backgrounds in youth development, education, Judaic studies, camping, environmental, gender and community studies, sustainable food service, organizational management and more. Many staff members were campers as well as summer staff at Tawonga before joining the year-round team, and all are passionate about bringing Camp’s mission to life.

Jamie Simon

Executive Director

Tawongan Since: 1990
Jamie has worked with Camp Tawonga for over 16 years in various capacities including camp director for nine years. In January, 2017, she assumed the role of executive director. An expert in emergency preparedness as well as gender inclusion and teen health education, Jamie speaks at conferences and leads workshops nationally on these issues. In her role as camp director, she participated in the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Executive Leadership Institute and in the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Shofar Fellowship. Jamie also served as co-chair of the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Leader’s Assembly, a national conference for Jewish camp professionals.  She previously worked as the prevention education director at United Against Sexual Assault in Sonoma County. Jamie has a B.A. in Psychology and Women and Gender Studies from Sonoma State University. She loves working with youth, spending time with her friends and family and is an avid fan of the San Jose Sharks. Jamie lives with her husband and fellow Tawongan, Dan, and their sons Ezra and Eli in Oakland.
[email protected] | @jamietawonga


aaron headshotAaron Mandel


Associate Director

Tawongan Since: 1994
Aaron first came to Tawonga as a camper in 1994 and joined the staff as a counselor in 2002, which was the best job he has ever had.  In 2007, Aaron joined the full-time staff as Tawonga’s Teen Program Coordinator and moved on to become one of Camp’s Assistant Directors before stepping into an Associate Director role in 2015.  One of Aaron’s passions is service learning; and he has worked on Tawonga’s Teen Service Learning program since 2006, and has led service-learning programs for American Jewish World Service since 2010.  Aaron completed the Jewish Service Learning Certificate Program at San Francisco State in 2010 and is currently a Lekhu Lakhem Fellow, a Jewish and Educational Journey for camp directors.  Aaron’s interests include improv comedy, bird watching, running, and frisbee.
[email protected]


Aaron Lurie

Kitchen and Operations Manager

Tawongan Since: 1999
Aaron is an Oakland native, first joining the Tawonga community as a camper in 1999 before becoming an enthusiastic member of the kitchen staff for six summers.  After graduating with a degree in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz, Aaron began a career in food service in the Bay Area. For three years, he gained valuable experience at The Local Butcher Shop, a Berkeley meat purveyor that specializes in whole animal butchery and sustainable food and farming practices within the local community. Here, he received advanced food instruction while managing a variety of administrative, financial and marketing functions. As Tawonga’s Kitchen and Operations Manager, Aaron is excited to channel his diverse food service skill set in a way that facilitates physical, emotional and spiritual wellness within the community.
[email protected]


Ash Headshot 2Ashley Costello

Director of Community Engagement 

Tawongan Since: 1993
Ashley grew up in Berkeley and didn’t realize when her parents put her on the bus to Camp Tawonga in July of 1993 that the following two weeks would impact the rest of her life. Ashley was a camper for six summers and became a summer staff member, first as counselor, then Unit Head, and TSL Trip Leader. Ashley joined the full-time staff in 2009 and loves working with families over the phone – it is always a real treat for her to connect names to faces at Tawonga community events. Ashley graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies and has a true love of nature and being outside.  When not in the office, Ashley loves spending time with her husband, Jamie and son, Erez.
[email protected]


Benjamin Simrin

Registrar and Camper Administration Coordinator

Tawongan Since: 1996
Ben first encountered the “tall, tall trees” during the summer of 1996.  It rained every day he was there and he vowed he would never come back.  After his mom literally forced him on the bus two years later, the Berkeley native can’t get enough of the Tuolumne River.  Ben was a camper for five glorious summers and became a summer staff member in 2003.  Ben has worn many hats during his 13 summers working at Camp: counselor, lifeguard, assistant director, driver, office staff, nanny, unit head and Teen Service Learning supervisor.  Ben joined Camp Tawonga’s full-time staff in 2015 and he absolutely loves talking to parents about his experience and how meaningful it has been in his life.  Ben lives in Oakland with three Tawongans, and in his free time, likes to go on hikes, play Ultimate Frisbee and go to movies.
[email protected]


Casey Cohen

Communications and Operations Director

Tawongan Since: 1996
An East Bay native, Casey first experienced Tawonga as a camper, returned as a summer staffer during college, and is now thrilled to work with Camp’s year-round team as Communications and Operations Director. Prior to this role, Casey served on the Major Giving development team for Summer Search, a National youth development organization. She has also held communications and program related roles for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and the San Francisco based Jewish Community Relations Council. Casey earned a B.A. in history from Claremont McKenna College and a Masters in Public Administration with a focus in nonprofit management from USC.
Casey lives in San Francisco with her husband and fellow Tawongan, Matt, and their daughter, Sadie. When not at the office, Casey loves to sing, play guitar and explore the outdoors of the Bay Area and beyond.
[email protected] | @cohencasey


Chris Salwasser

Buildings and Grounds Manager

Tawongan Since: 2006

A native of Monterey County, Chris lives year-round at Camp Tawonga and oversees all operations with regards to our beautiful property (160 acres along the Tuolumne River, inside the Stanislaus National Forest, seven miles from Yosemite). Chris’ hobbies include restoring classic cars as well as carpentry.
[email protected]


Danya Axelrad-Hausman

Program and Communications Assistant

Tawongan Since: 2015

Danya first came to Tawonga as a Wilderness Leader and has since supervised various  programs within the Wilderness department, including the Teva (nature education) program, backpacking and Quest (teen adventure travel). In 2018, Danya worked as the Wilderness Coordinator, developing and refining Tawonga’s terrific nature programs during the off-season. Prior to working at Tawonga, she participated in a fellowship with Urban Adamah exploring the intersections between Judaism and spirituality, farming, social justice and community. Danya studied at the University of Puget Sound, where she graduated with a degree in Sociology and a passion for outdoor exploration and guiding, community radio and environmental justice. When not in Tawonga’s San Francisco office, Danya loves swimming in the middle fork of the Tuolumne River, being in community and learning about plants.
[email protected]


 

Deborah Newbrun

Tawonga Director Emeritus and Senior Jewish Educator
Tawongan Since: 1977

Deborah was Camp Director and Executive Director at Camp Tawonga for a total of 24 years, during which time she designed and led the agency’s award-winning staff training and oversaw camper programs. She created and built Tawonga’s Teen Travel programs, Wilderness Department and ropes course, the LGBTQ Family weekend and the outdoor Erev Rosh Hashanah service. Most recently, Deborah co-created JOLT (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Training) four-day retreats in partnership with other Tawonga Directors, which has been taught to outdoor camp and Jewish environmental leaders around the country. Deborah was awarded a Covenant Award in 2018, which is the equivalent to the Nobel prize in Jewish education!

Deborah is most proud of developing programs and best practices that have become industry standards and of building a radically inclusive Jewish summer camp that is a model for Jewish resident camps all over the country. Deborah also literally wrote the book on Jewish environmental education. It’s called Spirit in Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology On the Trail [Behrman House, 2000]. Her expertise in Jewish gender education, Jewish food and farming texts, and Jewish values informs her work. Deborah coaches and mentors Jewish resident camp directors around North America with Foundation for Jewish Camp and the JCC Association.  She also designs Jewish-themed multi-day retreats for organizations like SVARA (a queer yeshiva), The Kitchen SF, The Los Angeles Jewish Community Federation, and Hazon. Deborah has raised four Tawongas, her two sons and two step daughters, and lives in Berkeley with her wife Sue Reinhold, also a Tawongan.
[email protected]


Erin Penn

Development Associate
Tawongan Since: 2018

Erin has been going to summer camps for as long as she can remember. She attended a Jewish overnight camp in Maryland for nine summers as a camper. A recent college graduate from Franklin and Marshall College, where she was active in Hillel, Erin led a fundraising campaign for her university’s student government and assisted a Jewish Day School’s development team. She is excited to join the Tawonga community and support its rich history and traditions in her role as Development Associate. In addition to Jewish summer camps, Erin loves pop culture and meeting new people.

[email protected]


GGG headshot

Gregg Rubenstein

Director of Finance

Tawongan Since: 1986
Gregg first came to Camp Tawonga in 1986, and spent 8 years as a camper.  He joined the summer staff in 1996 and the full-time staff in 1999.  He serves on the volunteer Boards of Bay Area Jewish Healing Center and Hebrew Free Loan, and spends part of each week as the Director of Finance at Primark Benefits.  In his spare time, he enjoys music, theater, movies, cycling, and hik
ing.  He lives in San Mateo with his wife Sara and their dog Franklin.
[email protected]

 


Keith Reeder


Caretaker

Tawongan Since: 2015

Keith is originally from Paducah, Kentucky and joined Tawonga in 2015. Chris’ right-hand man, Keith makes sure that the mechanic of Camp run smoothly all year-round. As Camp Tawonga’s caretaker, Keith lives up at Camp throughout the entire year. Keith enjoys hiking, fishing, classic cars and living outdoors.
[email protected]

 KenKen Kramarz


Tawonga Institute Director

Tawongan Since: 1981
Ken was an L.A. lawyer when Tawonga recruited him to join the staff. That was 1981, and for most of the next 34 years, he served as Tawonga’s executive director. Now as special projects manager, Ken supports the preservation and restoration of our beautiful property on the Tuolumne River. Ken met his wife Felicia at Camp in 1982, and together they raised Ben, Jake and Anna, all of whom have worked at Tawonga. Ken is Tawonga’s resident expert in Tawonga’s 4,000 year history from its days as a Miwok village, through the Gold Rush ranch, to today.  Ken is a nationally recognized expert in child safety and authored the “Emergency Playbook” used by camps, schools and JCCs across the country.  Ken likes to say, “Be a channel, not a dam.”
[email protected]


Lisa Wertheim


Development Director

Tawongan Since: 2012
Lisa has over twenty years in sales and marketing experience for leading Bay Area publishing and Internet companies. Prior to coming to Tawonga, she was Associate Director of Teens Turning Green, helping build a nationally recognized youth movement through managing programs, business development and fundraising, and promoting sustainability. Lisa volunteers on the executive board for the Women’s Philanthropy division of the SF Jewish Community Federation and is a member and former board president of the religious school at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. Melding her love of working with teens, environmental advocacy, and Jewish education, Lisa now feels incredibly fortunate to work for Camp Tawonga, where all of her interests intersect. She lives in Marin with her husband Matthew and has two grown children. She loves the outdoors and enjoys spending as much time at Camp as possible. Mostly, she loves getting to know this incredible community and calling herself a Tawongan!
[email protected]


Liz Chenok


Office Manager and Executive Assistant

Tawongan Since: 2015
Liz discovered Tawonga in 2015 as a counselor and continued working with campers for the next four summers, including as a Unit Head in 2018. She joined the year-round team in 2018 as the Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Liz received an Honors Bachelor degree in Sociology from Whitman College. She is passionate about social justice, connecting with nature and youth empowerment. At Whitman, Liz wrote an honors thesis that received the Ely Chertok award about Jewish Summer Camping which was heavily influenced by Tawonga! She presented her thesis at multiple conferences, which solidified her excitement to work for summer camping year-round. In her free time Liz loves to spend time outside, swim in any natural body of water possible, and cook (she won her college friends stir-fry off – watch out)! She is passionate about the transformative experience Camp brings to campers and staff alike and is thrilled to be on the year-round team.
[email protected]


Lori Hillman

Development Manager

Tawongan Since: 2000

Lori joined the Tawonga community when her kids, Maggie and Andy Polachek, became campers many moons ago. She went on to serve as a Tawonga board member from 2005-2011.

Lori launched her career at CBS News in New York, where she wrote and produced breaking news and special reports. Later at KPIX in San Francisco, she was the Executive Producer of Special News Projects, producing Emmy-winning investigative series and enterprise stories. Lori also taught broadcast news at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

More recently, at PRN (a former division of Technicolor), Lori led content creation and video production for scaled retail networks. In this role, she managed production teams and developed in-store B2C video marketing campaigns for major retailers and brands, including Costco, Target, Unilever, Disney and American Express. While at PRN, Lori also directed corporate marketing and spearheaded a women’s leadership initiative.

Lori holds an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. from UC Berkeley.
[email protected]


Meg Adler

Bar & Bat Mitzvah Program Manager

Tawongan Since: 1999

Meg is a former Tawonga camper, staff member and supervisor. She served on Tawonga’s summer staff from 2012-2017 in various roles including Jewish Program Assistant and for three years as our Counselor and Specialist In-Training Supervisor. In 2018, Meg received a Masters of Religion from Yale Divinity School and in 2016, a certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults through Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. She is also an alumna of UCLA, Go Bruins! When she isn’t studying Torah or trying to create the best Jewish educational experiences, Meg loves to ride her bike, cook for her friends and family, and draw building portraits.
[email protected]


Myla Marks

Director of Wilderness Programs

Tawongan Since: 1990
Myla comes to Tawonga with over a decade of experience in environmental education and nonprofit leadership. She was a Tawonga camper and spent seven formative summers at Camp as a counselor, wilderness leader and wilderness supervisor. Prior to returning to Tawonga in her current role, Myla was the Director of Training at Playworks, a national youth development nonprofit. She also worked with Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors and guided youth on outdoor trips across the country. Myla earned her B.A. in environmental studies from Vassar College and a Masters in Public Administration with a focus in nonprofit management from the University of Oregon. She loves walking in Oakland’s redwood forests with her husband and fellow Tawongan, Wes, and their daughters Ariela and Nava as well as swimming in beautiful places with friends.
[email protected]


Rebecca Meyer


Camp Director

Tawongan Since: 2004
Becca first came to Tawonga in 2004 as a Unit Head and has served on the full-time staff since 2007. During her tenure as Associate Director, Becca managed many of Camp’s most complex activities, including backpacking, teen travel (Quest), transportation, and medical care at Camp. She grew up in New England and attended summer camp in Maine for 8 years. Becca moved to the Bay Area after graduating from Harvard with a degree in Comparative Religion. Prior to joining the full-time staff at Tawonga, Becca worked as a Staffing Director at Camp Walt Whitman, a private camp in New Hampshire, and served on the Steering Committee of the Emerging Professionals in Camping organization. Becca has coached girls’ lacrosse for 10 years and received a Double-Goal Coach Award from the Positive Coaching Alliance. Her passions include backpacking, trail running, birding, and being outdoors. She lives in Berkeley with her husband and two children. Her favorite Tawonga values are “The children always come first” and “Kaizen: continuous improvement.”
[email protected]


Rick Ryan

Maintenance Technician

Tawongan Since: 2016
Rick was born and raised in California’s Central Valley, and lived in Georgia for the last 25 years. Before joining Tawonga’s year-round Buildings and Grounds crew in 2016, he worked in construction and plumbing for over three decades. Rick loves being able to live in “paradise,” up at Camp all year long, and in his spare time enjoys camping, fishing, prospecting, reading and hiking.
[email protected]


Rachelle Soriano

Staff Accountant

Tawongan Since: 2017
Rachelle is an East Bay native with over 10 years of experience working in finance and human resources for a variety of software companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her weekends are often spent on road trips with her husband Gabe and their five kids. When not exploring, Rachelle can be found with her kids at the park, or at home with a book in hand. Rachelle lives in Antioch with her family and their Rottweiler.
[email protected]


Sam Quintana


Program Manager

Tawongan Since: 2000
Born and raised in San Francisco, Sam started as a Tawonga camper in 2000 when he was 11 years old. Since then, he has spent nearly every proceeding summer at Tawonga as a camper, Counselor-In-Training, and staff member. He began as a counselor in 2008 and continued to work summers at Camp throughout his years attending UC Santa Cruz where he majored in psychology. Sam loves spending his summers by the Tuolumne River and the rest of the year connecting with families, interviewing for the SCIT program, and preparing for the summer. Sam enjoys photography, Bay Area sports teams, and listening to various podcasts.
[email protected]


sarah headshotSarah Perna


Executive Assistant and Billing/Financial Assistance Manager

Tawonganxd02
Sarah first joined Tawonga as a summer staff member in 2002. After four summers as a counselor, lifeguard and office assistant Sarah joined the full time staff in 2008 as an Administrative Assistant and Summer Operations Manager. Since 2008 Sarah has held various positions on the full time staff, currently serving as Tawonga’s Executive Assistant and Billing/Financial Assistance Manager. Sarah earned a degree in Business Management from Chico State where she spent many years working in the study abroad office. Her passion for learning and international travel has led her to study abroad in Australia, teach English in Japan, backpack through SE Asia and sightsee in various other countries around the world. Sarah is passionate about family, food, travel, fitness and photography. In her spare time you may find Sarah with her family having a picnic and playing soccer in a neighborhood park with her camera in hand.
[email protected]


 

Interested in Joining Tawonga’s Year-Round Team?

Check out our Year-Round Opportunities page where any job openings will be listed.