Board of Directors’ Shehecheyanu Moment at Camp

One of the greatest privileges of serving on the Camp Tawonga Board of Directors is our annual meeting at Camp for a weekend in July. From the moment we arrive on Friday afternoon, our agenda is packed: a formal Board meeting, walking tour of Camp, Shabbat dinner (complete with freylach), Saturday morning services, meetings with supervisors and directors, opportunities to participate in Camp activities… the list goes on.


But this year’s highlight – hands down – was a tree planting activity in Freedom Forest, part of an ongoing effort that started last spring to replenish trees lost in the Rim Fire of 2013. That fire was the largest in California history, and while camp lost three non-camper buildings we emerged largely intact. Camp still looks like Camp, but in some spaces the missing trees are more noticeable.


Last March, Camp staff and alumni spent a weekend planting dozens of trees in the garden and in Freedom Forest. And last weekend the Board was honored to be asked to plant several more. A special thank you to Ilana Drummond, our former Board President, for inspiring this activity.


Led by Myla Marks, director of Wilderness Programs, and her husband Wes Allen, a former Wilderness leader, we started our planting by gathering as a group to talk about the importance Judaism places on trees – as sources of strength, shelter, sustenance, and community. We then each shared a personal note about our favorite trees (Redwoods and Oaks were a top hit).


From there we ventured to Freedom Forest and followed Wes’s careful instructions on how to plant trees intentionally and professionally. In teams of four, we dug deep, having to break through packed soil and rock before gently lowering the trees – Ponderosa Pines – into the ground. We tossed in some fertilizer and fungus and after a good soaking with water we built a ring of stones around each tree. Before refilling the holes each of our small groups huddled up to say a prayer for trees.


We gathered again as a group on the benches in Freedom Forest and together recited the shehecheyanu. We all felt the power of that moment and honored the meaning and significance of our tree planting by sharing brief reflections. Some highlights: feeling the presence of Tawongans who have come before us in that space, the importance of rebirth and regrowth, imagining the generations of campers who will sit amongst those trees in the years to come, and our deep appreciation for the land and our property that Camp Tawonga is so lucky to call home in the Stanislaus National Forest.


A special thank you to Myla, Wes, Becca, Jamie (and kitchen staff for the lemonade) for making this activity so thorough and meaningful, and for helping us get a glimpse into the same intentionality that goes into camper programming. We look forward to checking in our trees next summer and beyond. Like Tawonga, and our community, we will watch them go from strength to strength.


Stacy Mason is currently President of Camp Tawonga’s Board of Directors and is both a camper and staff parent alumni.

Check out photos from their tree planting activity earlier this month as well as photos from today. Shabbat shalom!