Passing Tawonga’s Torch
By our next Executive Director, Jamie Simon-Harris
It is an honor and a privilege to be named Camp Tawonga’s next Executive Director. Tawonga has been an integral part of my life since my first summer as a camper over 25 years ago, and Tawonga was also the first place I felt I could truly be myself. It didn’t matter what I was wearing, how I performed at sports, or what my grades were in school – people accepted me. I left that first summer, and many summers after, feeling like anything was possible.
In countless ways, Tawonga has made me who I am today. At Camp, I learned the true meaning of friendship. By immersing myself in Tawonga’s values of community and service, I became inspired to lead a life as a feminist and an activist. And it was at Tawonga where I knew I wanted to be Jewish.
I am committed to ensuring that Tawongans continue to feel that same powerful self-assurance and connection to community for years to come.
As a member of Tawonga’s year-round professional staff since 2006, I have worked as both an Assistant Director and Camp Director. During this time, I have been fortunate to have inspiring Tawonga mentors, including four of the eight Executive Directors who have led Camp since its move in the 1960s to our Tuolumne River location.
I have the daily privilege of learning from Ken Kramarz’s visionary leadership, cultivated over the course of 30 years with the agency. Ken has shown me how to set a clear course with a thoughtful road map. I am grateful that Ken will be staying at Tawonga to steward our Master Site Plan and will be applying his deep knowledge to support our facility’s growth.
In addition to Ken, Deborah Newbrun, Adam Weisberg, Mimi Gordon and Ann Gonski taught me valuable lessons and skills that I carry with me in my work today. Passion for our mission, empathy, and Jewish role modeling have been part of Tawonga’s ethos for decades, and I look forward to carrying on these values as Executive Director.
I will work tirelessly to maintain and improve our cherished core programs, including summer and family camp. I am also very excited to launch new programs in the coming year that will bring Tawonga to the Bay Area. We are expanding our programs in order to offer year-round and lifelong engagement opportunities for children, families, and adults. We will be launching a Tawonga-style B’nai Mitzvah program and a year-long calendar of events in the Bay Area in 2016. As we strive always to innovate and explore new ways to serve our community, Tawonga’s future is bright.
I am thrilled that Rebecca Meyer will be the next Camp Director. Becca and I have worked together at Tawonga since 2004, and she has over 20 years of experience working with young adults and children. Becca is an extremely capable, thoughtful, smart and inspiring leader. Along with Becca, Associate Directors Katie Quinn and Aaron Mandel will be leading summer camp. Together, they make a dynamic and highly competent team with 30 years of experience at Tawonga. Under their leadership, Camp will continue to thrive and flourish.
Tawonga is a place where individuals can seek refuge from inequality, injustice, and dependence on technology. Camp provides a safe space to process what is happening in the world while unplugging in nature and connecting to friends and community. We strive every day for Tawonga to be a place where people can be who they are without judgment, where differences aren’t just tolerated but celebrated, and where everyone is welcome. As my husband and I raise our son, there is no doubt that Tawonga will be a teacher to him and that he will be better for it.
I am so proud to have the opportunity to lead the organization that I not only love, but that shaped me into the person I am today. I am deeply committed to ensuring that all Tawongans can experience that spark I felt 25 years ago, and can leave their first Tawonga program, like I did, saying, “anything is possible.”