Planting for the Future: Tawonga Alums Give Back

By: Danya Axelrad-Hausman


In March 2019, before replanting areas of Camp, a group of Tawonga alumni, staff and friends took in some Jewish wisdom from the Talmud to get in the spirit of our third annual Spring Service Weekend.


The Talmud teaching led by year-round staff member, Meg Adler, included a story about Choni and the carob tree. Choni asks a man planting the tree – which won’t bear fruit for 70 years – “Why are you planting this tree when you may not even live to eat its fruits?” The man replies,


“I eat the fruits from the trees my ancestors planted, so I plant this tree for my children.”

Paying it forward with care for future generations is what Spring Service Weekend is all about. The group focused on areas of Camp heavily impacted by the 2013 Rim Fire and ensuing Bark Beetle epidemic. In total, 20 participants planted 167 native trees on Tawonga’s property. They carefully dug up small Incense Cedars, carved out new places for Black Oaks and uncovered mycelium, a white web-like fungus, to inoculate the trees.


“This is such an amazing way to give back to a place that has given me so much,”

shared Maya Abramson, long-time Tawonga songleader. “My first year on staff, I lived in one of the areas that was burned in the Rim Fire, and this weekend I am planting trees right beside that cabin.”


Some of the trees (a mix of Black Oak, Canyon Live Oak and Ponderosa Pines) were purchased from local nurseries, but the vast majority were transplanted from “natural nurseries” on Camp property, areas with growth too dense for all baby trees to survive. Digging up some of these trees and replanting them elsewhere increases the likelihood of survival for both the remaining trees in the natural nursery and the transplanted trees in their new homes.


Like the future children from the Talmudic tale, current Tawonga campers and staff benefit from many gifts from past generations. Members of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, who lived at Tawonga before it was a summer camp, likely implemented iterations of modern forest management practices.


Similarly, Tawongans today tend to this land (comprised of 160 beautiful acres) so that our community can experience its wonder for decades to come.


In just two months, Tawonga’s summer season will kick off, bringing over 2,500 people to our site. As part of our summer tikkun programming, campers will participate in caring for the land. They will  prune Oaks to stimulate growth and reduce fire fuels – and remove invasive species to leave more space for baby trees to grow.


With alumni planting new trees in the spring, campers tending to those trees in the summer and winter weather nourishing them with water, the tradition of giving back will endure at Tawonga.



Danya Axelrad-Hausman is Tawonga’s Communications and Program Assistant and before working for Tawonga year-round, she worked for four summers in our Wilderness Department.

P.S. To stay connected to Tawonga alumni happenings, join the young alumni Facebook group.