This past September, over 30 camper and staff alumni dusted off their sleeping bags, Nalgenes and bottles of sunscreen to head up to Tawonga for the first Tawonga Alumni Weekend gathering in over a decade. Spearheaded by our Young Alumni Board (YAB), the weekend was a chance for young alumni to come back to the place they loved after being away for many years (and not yet with families of their own to join for a family camp weekend). Together with this special community, these alumni revisited their love of Camp, the beautiful, sacred land and reconnected to their Jewish identities that Tawonga has a way of inspiring.
- Friday day hike to nearby Carlon Falls to visit an amazing swimming hole.
- Shabbat! From dinner, singing and dancing in the Dining Hall, enjoying Shabbat chicken (and tofu), to a (literally) moving Kabbalat Shabbat service hike up the ridge led by Director Aaron Mandel and Songleader Gal Friedman, to Torah Services at Makom Shalom.
- The food! The Camp favorites we all remembered, including Shabbat bagel breakfast, delicious homemade challah, baked brie and rice krispies at the BBQ, were all there!
- A very special dance, featuring Isaac Zones’ band Shamati. People boogied even past shmira’s shift limit!
- Camp favorite activities including river time at Paradise Island, yoga with Di Gradstein, beading & tie dye at A&C, chilling on the Back Porch, challenge course high elements and of course making our very own alumni plaque!
- An emotional and moving afternoon sharing session on how Tawonga has impacted and continues to impact alumni even decades after some had last been at Camp.
Camper and staff alum, Rachael Kirk (pictured left), who also serves on the Young Alumni Board, shared,
“It was incredibly meaningful to share Tawonga, a place so important to me, with my husband. We were married under Camp’s Chuppah poles this past June, and he was excited to learn more about this special place. For myself and my friends, as well as many alumni, Camp was where we learned self confidence, a love of nature, and a commitment to community. While sharing challah and singing the shabbat blessing, Matt was able to get a taste of why we love Camp.”
Other alumni shared that it was an experience to see how Camp has changed over the years, from the amazing, HUGE garden (with its delicious kale and zucchini they ate all weekend) and new cabins to stage enhancements and new songs sung at song session. Although it was exciting to see the amazing ways Tawonga is growing, they agreed that the same Camp spirit is as strong as ever.
We hope more alumni are able to remain connected to the Tawonga community and this amazing place, and that this tradition of revisiting Camp can continue!