Camp Director notes on Session II

I’m excited to share a few highlights from our first week of Session II today. As Tawonga’s Camp Director, I love to float from bunk to bunk and check in with the campers on how they are doing. On Wednesday, I talked to a child from B-9 whose bunk had just returned from their backpacking trip to Harden Lake in Yosemite National Park. He told me it was the best 24 hours of his life. When I asked him why, he thought about it and shared that “it was because of the people, the beauty, and being outside!”


Without fail, these reflections energize me in the work we do in Jewish camping, and confirm over and over that our mission is working: kids at Tawonga feel good about themselves, about their community, about nature, and about connecting Jewishly or spiritually at camp. What this boy shared with me is echoed across so many bunks every summer, since for many, it is their first backpacking experience, and completing that hike together as a bunk unit in the awe-inspiring wilderness is a triumphant experience. At this point in Session II, over half the campers have completed their backpacking trips, and the remaining bunks will venture out this week. All of these trips are led by our dedicated wilderness leaders into either Yosemite National Park or the surrounding Stanislaus National Forest.


The second night of camp was another highlight: our Men’s and Women’s Campfires. Our staff led these special sessions, where we sang songs and shared gender-specific reflections together, first as bunks and then in our larger groups. The girls discussed that the pressure they can feel to look and act a certain way lightens at Tawonga. The boys talked about how at camp, they don’t need to act in a way that is macho, and that there isn’t one way to be a man. All campers shared ideas on how to create a positive community at camp. Above all else, these campfires stressed that at Tawonga, being yourself is all you need to be, and you will be appreciated, supported, and loved.


I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to serve in this role leading our talented summer staff who truly make the magic happen at Tawonga every day.




Jamie Simon-Harris
Camp Director