End of Summer Highlights From Camp Director, Jamie Simon-Harris

As I have walked around camp each day during this last session of our summer season, I feel privileged to see Camp Tawonga’s  mission come to life:


All campers are supported by our dedicated and loving counselors, and their self-esteem builds with each stroke of a brush at Arts & Crafts, each song sung out during song session, and each step on a ladder at our Challenge Course. Bunks are building their own communities, forging strong relationships together and learning what it means to contribute to the greater camp community.


Kids are forging a partnership with nature; from planting and harvesting in our organic garden to embarking on their backpacking trips to counting shooting stars at night, it’s clear that unplugging from daily technology and becoming immersed in Tawonga’s beautiful setting is truly a breath of fresh air. In addition, all campers have learned about this summer’s Jewish theme – Derech Eretz (Way of the land), engaging in bunk discussions about how this theme that relates to being a mensch can apply to their own lives and camp experiences.


So many highlights come to mind from Session IV, and I’m excited to share just a few that have risen to the top:


Bunk Adoption

adoptionAs this session is one of our longer ones, campers get the opportunity to really settle in and to build those life-long friendships. The length of this session also allows campers the opportunity to grow close not only with their bunkmates, but also with the broader Tawonga community. One tradition that facilitates this community-building is what we call bunk adoption – when an older bunk adopts a younger one, committing to planning activities with these younger kids and serving as role models during the session. Witnessing many of our older bunks electing to take younger bunks under their wing – developing leadership skills in the process – is so inspiring, especially since I can recall when these older campers were being adopted themselves just a few years ago.


Noar l’Noar Campers

noarOne particularly special aspect of Session IV is our Noar L’Noar program, an amazing and enduring partnership that brings campers from throughout Israel to Tawonga. Our 14 Noar campers this year range from Druze to Ethiopian, and reflect for our camp community the broad diversity of Israel. Not only is this partnership impactful for our Israeli campers to experience Tawonga and to forge friendships with an American Jewish cohort, but it is also a powerful opportunity for the majority of our campers from the U.S. Through exposure to our Noar campers and through developing relationships them, our local campers learn about and connect with Israeli society in a way that is personal and meaningful.  


Earth Day

earthdayA beloved tradition at Tawonga, Earth Day takes place in our beautifully expanded organic garden. For this interactive and highly engaging program that celebrates our planet, each camper chooses between two to three activities, including pickling with our gardeners and making fruit and vegetable smoothies on our bicycle-to-blender station. Earth Day has grown into one our most popular programs at camp, culminating in a lively song session amidst our growing plants and herbs.

By this time in the session, every bunk has returned triumphant from a
backpacking trip into Yosemite National Park or the surrounding Stanislaus National Forest – a highlight for many kids. Over the past weekend, our entire camp community came together for a beautiful final Tawonga Shabbat of the summer, beginning Friday evening in a decked out Dining Hall of white tablecloths for a delicious Shabbat feast with homemade challah. And finally, just last night all campers participated in our festive International Dinner, where staff prepared delicious dishes rooted in their heritage, and shared them with all of camp.


It is hard to believe that tomorrow, this last group of campers of the summer will be “leaving on a jet bus”.  This has been yet another beautiful summer here at Tawonga, and I am so grateful to our campers and staff for creating this magical home away from home for our community.




Jamie Simon-Harris
Camp Director

P.S. One way to stay connected and to take Tawonga home with you is to join us for our Down the Mountain programs, including our Annual Erev Rosh Hashanah Service on September 13 in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park. We also hope you will join us on November 7 in San Francisco for our momentous 90th Anniversary Celebration!


Below, enjoy photos from the day! If you haven’t already done so, be sure to bookmark our blog, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so we can stay in touch throughout the year.