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Leadership Transition: Letters from Board President Ilana Drummond and Executive Director Ken Kramarz

October 12, 2015

Dear Tawonga Community Members,

On behalf of the Camp Tawonga Board of Directors, I am thrilled to share that Jamie Simon-Harris, our current Camp Director, will succeed Ken Kramarz in 2017 as the agency’s next Executive Director. Ken will continue to play a major role in the organization including supporting the implementation of the Tawonga Master Site Plan — a strategic vision designed to meet the growing needs of our community. This month, Jamie will move into the role of Associate Executive Director, and Rebecca Meyer, Tawonga’s Associate Director for the past eight years, will succeed Jamie as Camp Director.

Now in its 90th year, Tawonga will be expanding its programming in scope and reach, offering year-round and lifelong engagement opportunities for kids and families. This next chapter for Camp is ambitious and requires partnership with our community for the tremendous work ahead. Beginning in 2016, we will be launching exciting new ventures including a Bar and Bat Mitzvah program, Kibbutz Tawonga, and a 10-year multifaceted campus expansion to enhance our property on the Tuolumne River. The board is confident that Jamie is the ideal person to continue the organization’s legacy of extraordinary leadership, and that together Jamie and Becca make a powerful and inspirational team to lead us into the future.

This leadership plan reflects a long and thoughtful process which began when Ken informed the board of his interest in refocusing his energies on the implementation of the Master Site Plan, after leading the organization as Executive Director for 30 years. The year-long process culminated in the board unanimously appointing Jamie to be Camp’s next Executive Director, with Ken’s enthusiastic support. Please read Ken’s letter which follows mine.

We are so grateful for Ken’s three decades of service. He created enduring Tawonga pillars like the Canon of Ethics for staff and and our Incident Command System for emergency response. Ken’s love of the land and his deep respect for its history have preserved our property as a place of beauty and wonder for children and families. His vision of camp as a spiritual gathering place has inspired thousands to become Tawongans for life.

Together, Jamie and Ken have led Tawonga for the majority of the last decade. They have developed an effective and trusting partnership and will continue to work together as Ken transitions into his new supporting role and Jamie takes over leadership of the agency.

Jamie has earned a stellar reputation, serving as Tawonga’s Camp Director since 2006, and the board recognizes that she is uniquely qualified to be our next Executive Director. A Tawongan since 1990, Jamie has worked with the agency for a total of 15 years in various capacities and has developed an expertise in emergency preparedness and response as well as gender inclusion and health education. Prior to Tawonga, Jamie worked as the Prevention Education Director at United Against Sexual Assault in Sonoma County.

The Board of Directors and staff will work closely together to ensure Tawonga’s continued excellence and a smooth continuity of leadership. We know that the future of this agency will continue to be in the utmost capable hands with Jamie and Becca at the helm for this exciting next chapter in Tawonga’s epic history.

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Ilana Drummond
President of the Board of Directors

P.S. I am sharing a press release here that was sent out to the media today.

Dear Fellow Tawongans,

This is the most fun I’ve ever had writing about Camp Tawonga, because I get to brag about my amazing colleagues, our outstanding board, and a strategic plan that is catapulting us into a transformative future!

In that future, you will see Camp Tawonga continue to be a premier mountain camp experience, serving an ever-broadening spectrum of children and families. In addition, new age groups will find a place at Camp, beginning with the launch of Kibbutz Tawonga. This will be an at-camp fellowship for 21-35 year olds, living Jewish values on a daily basis as they tend our organic garden, replant the fire-ravaged forest, and create beautiful wood-crafts from Rim Fire rescued trees.

At the same time, we will vastly expand your opportunities to connect with each other through Jewish festivals and life-cycle events at locations close to home. This will begin next year as we open our first Bar and Bat Mitzvah classes. Imagine children traversing this deeply meaningful rite of passage, infused with Tawonga values and led by Tawonga staff. I can hardly wait for the first aliyah!

To accomplish all this (and more) we have chosen the very best professionals to lead us. As you read in Board President Ilana Drummond’s letter, our next Executive Director will be our very own Jamie Simon-Harris. I’ve worked side by side with Jamie for many years, and she is a truly amazing leader. Jamie is smart, fun, funny, and fiercely committed to the Tawonga Mission — and staff love working for her. She will be the best Exec we’ve ever had. But before that, Jamie will serve as Associate Executive Director, working closely with me to ensure a seamless transition of authority in 2017. After that, I get to be one of those staff who love working for Jamie, directing our Master Plan of capital construction at Camp, and teaching Tawonga methodologies to schools, synagogues and community centers through our rapidly expanding Tawonga Institute program.

Becca, our new Camp Director, is a visionary leader with 20 years of experience working with children and young adults. She is brilliant, with a Harvard degree in Religious Studies; a great outdoorswoman, with a deep reverence for nature; and an award-winning teacher and coach who inspires everyone around her to be their best selves. Becca is a powerful spiritual leader and storyteller, and when she leads the Torah service at Makom Shalom, my tallis is tear-stained with joy. Like Jamie, Becca is also a loving parent and profoundly sensitive to the needs of children. Under the leadership of Jamie and Becca-along with the rest of the full-time staff you know and love-Tawonga will continue to be the place we’d all rather be!

Last week, Jamie, Becca and I shared this news with Tawonga’s Presidents Council, whose board service spans from the 1970’s to this moment. They were all so gracious and supportive, just as the current Board of Directors has been. It was a wonderful reminder that we who are blessed with the opportunity to work at Tawonga are but temporary stewards for a culture of values that goes back generations. Please feel free to reach out to Jamie, Becca, or me. We would love to hear from you!

I am so grateful for the work I have been able to do at Tawonga and so excited about the new work to come.

In the bond of Tawongans,

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Ken Kramarz
Executive Director, Camp Tawonga

P.S. Check out Jamie’s blog post for her thoughts.