Where to begin? Without a doubt, 2020 was one of the most tumultuous years in Tawonga’s history. In the face of so many personal challenges, our community showed up like never before. We are grateful to each of you who protected not only the financial foundation of Tawonga, but the values we hold dear. We met loss and disappointment with hope and resolve. We stayed connected.
This report calls attention to the many accomplishments of 2020 – in spite of the cancellation of our entire Camp season. We joined together for virtual Friday night song sessions, Tot Shabbats, Jewish holidays and more. We advanced our commitment to justice with online staff trainings, affinity spaces for Jews of color and teen workshops. Our third cohort of Tawonga B’nai Mitzvah students graduated!
Construction projects moved forward with gusto – some were completed and others broke ground. We also worked tirelessly to design a detailed plan for reopening Camp with the safest protocols in place.
Whether you’re the parent or grandparent of a camper, a Tawonga alum, a participant in local programs, a donor to Tawonga – or all of the above – we hope you will marvel at the resilience we found together in 2020.
Thank you for your dedication to Camp. We are Tawonga … together.
Chief Executive Officer
We are humbled by the overwhelming support of our emergency fundraising campaign, “Tawonga Together.” With our season cancelled and financial foundation at risk, Tawongans across generations were moved to step up. People who hadn’t been in touch with Tawonga in decades contributed; 418 current Camp families donated their 2020 fees back to us; and a whopping 505 people made a donation to Tawonga for the very first time.
In total, 1,400 donors contributed to our Tawonga Together campaign, sustaining the transformative magic of Tawonga for generations to come. You are the true changemakers of our community.
Here are just a few of the comments community members shared while donating:
“I’m not sure who I’d be today without this deeply meaningful and transformative community. Thank you for changing my life.”
“Thank you for your help in raising two wonderful daughters! May the same happen for many more!”
“This is for growing my love of the tall, tall trees. For a warm and vibrant Jewish community. For introducing me to Yosemite. And, for the many more children and families for whom you will do the same.”
Thank you to everyone who gave to Camp in 2020. Each gift has helped to safeguard Tawonga as a haven of joy, inspiration, spirituality and connection. Your support is a silver lining during this challenging time.
Click here to view all of our 2020 annual donors.
In 2020, Tawonga faced the hardest financial challenge in our organization’s history. After cancelling our entire 2020 season, we were left with a $4.2 million deficit. Here’s how you helped us bridge the gap:
This pie chart outlines how we made up the difference:
In a typical year, the support of Tawonga donors covers 20% of our budget – funding Camperships, program innovation and facility maintenance. In 2020, fundraised dollars covered almost 80% of our budget – our donors quite literally steadied our financial foundation.
Last year, as a moral reckoning gripped the nation, Tawonga’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) initiative – which began in 2019 – gained significant momentum and continued to hold steady as an agency priority. We asked ourselves how our outreach and programs could better include, center and empower more families and individuals of color.
Leading these efforts is Assistant Director Kiyomi Gelber, who identifies as a Jew of color. We secured critical funding and launched new programming; our year-round staff and Board of Directors participated in ongoing training to promote racial justice, gender inclusion and a culture of equity.
In addition to adding an inclusion track to our B’nai Mitzvah program and running social justice-themed programs for our teens, Tawonga hosted a Families of Color Hanukkah Celebration. After the Zoom gathering, one parent shared:
“As a family that mixes Mexican and Jewish cultures, we are so grateful that Tawonga is committed to building spaces where family cultural mixes are the norm. I am hopeful that this will help our boys grow up feeling understood, confident and whole.”
Tawonga is committed to the transformation necessary for fully living the Jewish values of tzedek (justice), chesed (caring) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). We are approaching this work with humility and hope – and know we have a long way to go!
Tawonga (Zooming) Down the Mountain
When Tawonga’s 2020 at-Camp season was cancelled due to COVID-19, Tawongans yearned for that Camp ruach (spirit) more than ever – especially as an increasing number of community members claim Tawonga as their primary Jewish affiliation.
From the wildly popular and creative “Tawonga at Home” virtual offerings to a trailblazing B’nai Mitzvah Program and impactful social justice-themed teen leadership series, our local offerings last year filled a particularly pressing need for connection during a year that challenged us all.
“Thank you for filling my heart and soul with the unbelievably powerful Tawonga warmth this year – I felt the love from two states away through the amazing virtual programming! There is nothing harder to build than a sense of togetherness when we are separated, but wow – you all did the dang thing.” – Natalie Lyons-Cohen, Camper & Summer Staff Alum
Tawonga At Home
After a handful of in-person gatherings at the start of 2020 (including an inspiring women’s Shabbat with 50 participants spanning generations!), Tawongans of all ages embraced a slate of virtual “Tawonga at Home” programs: song sessions, Torah services, Tot Shabbats, talent shows and more. Meanwhile, our summer staff Zoomed into a dozen dynamic programs, often with a social or racial justice bent. Despite the physical distance, the Tawonga bond remained stronger than ever.
“It fills my heart all the way up to share the music and ruach of Camp with my daughter (2 years old). Already, it’s shaping who she is. Tot Shabbats hit all the crucial notes – silliness and awe and gratitude and community – all the things that Judaism means to me.”
– Rachael DeWitt, Camper & Summer Staff Alum
For a break from screens, many of you tuned into behind-the-scenes Camp stories with your host, Aaron Mandel, on Tawonga Radio. Listen below!
In case you missed it, take a peek at our Erev Rosh Hashanah Celebration
B’nai Mitzvah Program Evolves
In its fifth year since launching as a small pilot, Tawonga’s Bar, Bat and B’nai Mitzvah Program pivoted with tremendous innovation during the pandemic to keep the Jewish rite of passage meaningful (and safe) for our 130 students.
Our task? To teach, support and bring families together as they envision unique B’nai Mitzvah experiences that reflect who they are. We strove to stay true to our community-centered values while adjusting our program to a hybrid virtual and in-person structure that included classes, mentoring sessions, expanded parent education, nature retreats and service projects. Additional Shabbat services filled an increased need for connection while new at-home materials spared kids unnecessary screen time.
“We lent a pastoral ear in a way we never have before,” shared Meg Adler, Assistant Director of Jewish Life & Learning and leader of this program, which has become a national model for unaffiliated families. “We took care of people’s spirits.”
“When I was younger I had a subconscious curiosity for Judaism through the various prayers we did as a family. Tawonga’s B’nai Mitzvah Program (although I was skeptical at first!) has really increased that curiosity and deepened my knowledge of Jewish culture.”
– Jude Cox, 12 yrs old, Tawonga B’nai Mitzvah Student
Teen Leaders Take On Social Justice
We know teens have struggled in profound ways as they endured a year of social isolation and cancelled plans. For 25 rising 10th and 11th graders, Tawonga offered a bright spot of learning and growth through a social justice-themed teen leadership series last summer.
Teen participants were able to build community and connect with their peers while examining urgent social justice topics. They learned how to tangibly engage in this kind of work through the lens of Tawonga’s mission and Canon of Ethics. We will continue to build social justice into upcoming teen programming so that our future changemakers can get to work.
“This program helped me understand how I can make a difference. It pushed me to realize that even seemingly simple things like signing a petition and showing up with your voice can make an impact on social justice. It was an amazing opportunity.”
– Addison Lentzner, 16 years old
Tawonga Institute Takes Off
In August, we formally launched Tawonga Institute – the professional consulting arm of Camp Tawonga – to offer online training and one-on-one consulting services to individuals and organizations. Through workshops led by members of our executive and senior staff, emerging women-identifying professionals gained empowerment tools; parents learned how to manage power struggles with toddlers amidst a pandemic; colleagues across the Jewish and camping worlds shared roadmaps for leading organizations in a new remote, work-from-home landscape; and agencies across the Bay Area benefited from emergency preparedness and response training. Passing down the curated wisdom of a near century of organizational know-how couldn’t be more mission aligned.
Investing for the Next 95 Years in Tawonga’s Site
In Tawonga’s 95th year, stewardship of our precious property is one of our highest priorities. We are deeply grateful to the Tawongans of the 1920s who bought this land for us – free and clear – so that every donated dollar directly enriches the Tawonga experience.
In 2020, thanks to the generosity of donors who made significant gifts, we were able to complete several major upgrades to our buildings and grounds. Each of the projects listed below reflects our commitment to providing the best possible facilities with the highest regard for the natural environment.
We broke ground on a brand new Health Center in August 2020 and will open its doors for full use during our 2021 season.
This modern facility with upgraded amenities maintains Camp’s rustic aesthetic and includes an upstairs clinic with a nurse’s office and three patient exam spaces, five patient recovery rooms (including an isolation area) and a medical staff bedroom. A doctor’s suite and additional staff housing are downstairs.
Fulfilling a high need, this expanded space will provide the best patient care possible to our community, which has doubled in population size since Tawonga moved to our current Tuolumne River location in 1964.
Until 2020, we weren’t able to look across the Lake or up from a campfire circle without seeing high voltage power lines. Today, after years of planning and coordination by Ken Kramarz, these power lines have been safely buried underground. They no longer pose wildfire threats or interfere with helicopter access to Camp – an important component of our emergency response system.
This improvement makes it possible to provide modern, high-powered amenities in food service, medical facilities and program areas while simultaneously enhancing the look and feel of Camp.
Our iconic Dining Hall is now a gorgeous place to gather all year long! The lakeside deck is completely rebuilt, and the views are more spectacular than ever, thanks to the undergrounding of the PG&E wires. The expanded deck area doubles our space for programming, creates ADA accessibility and offers shaded amphitheater seating for Shabbat breakfasts, Havdalah services and Saturday night dances.
We’ve also added two innovative emergency upgrades. One is an irrigation system that essentially “rains” on the Dining Hall roof to protect it from airborne embers. The second is a custom smoke filtration system that uses activated carbon filters to circulate fresh air into the Dining Hall, should smoke drift into Camp from a distant fire.
In the spring of 2020, Tawonga completed the construction of five new and improved camper cabins! These structures follow the five cabins recently built and used during our 2019 season. In addition to ADA accessibility, each cabin features a roomy deck made of Tawonga-milled cedar wood, full insulation, fire sprinklers and “hidden” electrical outlets for Family Camp Weekends and year-round programs. A seamless fit with the natural surroundings, this state-of-the-art Camp housing looks like it has been on our property forever.
Family Donor Spotlights
Families share why they choose to support Tawonga.
Annual Donors – It’s All Thanks to You!
The individuals and institutions that support Tawonga’s Annual Fund are the true changemakers. Thank you for impacting so many children, families and young adults. Your support makes all of this possible.
Teens Thank Tawonga Donors
Tawonga Legacy Society
Our Legacy Society members secure Camp’s future by including Tawonga in their will, trust, retirement account, or life insurance policy. Thank you to our members – your investment is deeply appreciated.
Tawonga Legacy Society members
|Adam Alcabes||Melinna Askin Gershik||Marilyn* & Steve Lazar||Renee Samson|
|Anonymous||Jordan Gill||Jessica Leo||Randall Schwartz|
|Ari A. Baruth||Len Goldberg||Josh Leslie||Larissa (Lara) Siegel|
|Adam Berman||Nicole Goldstein||Roger M. Low||Lori Silverstein|
|Jen & Jon Boxerman||Ann Gonski & John Scott||Aaron Mandel||Stella Sedletskaya|
|Gabrielle Bressack||Norm* & Squeek Grabstein*||Rebecca L. Meyer||Libby & Frank Silver|
|Barbara & Lawrence Cahn*||Richard Grabstein & Harriette Unger||Sydney Mintz||Jamie Simon|
|Steve Catechi||Jeff Greendorfer||Eva & Ernest Newbrun||Katelyn Rose Simons|
|Jessica Chizen||Harold Grinspoon||Joyce Newstat||Ben Simrin|
|Heather Robert Coffman & David E. Coffman||Rabbi Sholom Groesberg*||Barbara Niss||Nora Smith|
|Eleanor & Ralph* Coffman||Robert Heller*||Erick Ordin & Miriam Marx Ordin||Diane Stern & Alejandro Quintana|
|Cohen Family||Rachael Henderson||Elise Peck||Judy Stern & Dan Mihalovich|
|Jessica Colvin||Jed Herman||Brian Permutt||Melanie Wartenberg|
|Kenneth* & Thelma Colvin*||Sheila & Ned Himmel||Avi & Sarah Perna||Sharon & Joshua Weinberg|
|Ashley & Jamie Costello||Yeva Johnson & Michael Potter||Caitlin Quinn||Adam Weisberg|
|Ilana Drummond||Ryley Katz||Eric Raznick & Tracey Erwin||Marilyn* & Raymond Weisberg*|
|Susan & Bill Epstein||Nina Kaufman & Dan Kaplan||Sue Reinhold & Deborah Newbrun||Lisa & Matthew Wertheim|
|Denise Feinsod||Gene & Susan Kaufman||Monica Pallie Rocchino||Brian Wise|
|Philip & Lisa Feldman||Rachael Kirk-Cortez||Saul & Barbara Rockman||Harold & Mary Zlot|
|Michael & Anna Fogelman||Joseph & Leslie Kleitman||Gregg Ivan Bernell Rubenstein|
|Darin Freitag||Michelle & Sue Kletter||John F. Sampson|
|Steve Gershik||Ken & Felicia Kramarz||Norman Schlossberg|
*of blessed memory
Tawonga Board of Directors
Our Board of Directors is an inspiring group of professionals. With their vision, guidance and leadership, Tawonga is in amazing hands.
Tawonga Board of Directors
|Jeff Zlot – President||Neil Hallinan||Jen Spitzer|
|Stacy Mason – Vice President||Alexis Lezin||Jennifer Strasburg|
|Ezra Berman – Treasurer||Marcy Scott Lynn||Dennis Troper|
|Tali Levy – Secretary||Shana Penn||Raziel Ungar|
|Michelle Kletter – Member-at-Large||Mike Potter||Deborah Wexler|
|Lena Brook||Ari Rabin||Jon Yolles|
|Jessica Chizen||Renee Samson||Betsy Zeger|
Tawonga Alumni Board
The Tawonga Alumni Board is comprised of young professionals who want to give back to Camp in deeper ways.
Tawonga Alumni Board
|David Aptaker||Chelsea Kaufman|
|Ari Berman||Jake Kramarz|
|Eli Chanoff||Mac Walker|
|Ben Gershen||Noah Zaves|
Custom lettering in this report by Letters, Aligned