Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions for our summer programs.
How do I know which program is best for my child?
Whether your child attends a week of summer camp or three weeks on a Teen Adventure Quest, our staff will provide a safe environment for campers to feel great about themselves while deepening their independence, exploring Judaism in a beautiful, natural setting, and developing a sense of belonging in our warm, inclusive community. Typically, the best indicator of how much time away is appropriate is the child– a desire to go away to camp is an excellent place to start. For some, sleepovers and time away from home is still new, and one or two weeks can be a good start. For others with more comfort and/or experience being away, or for those with a heightened sense of adventure, programs lasting two weeks or longer will be a good fit. Remember that it’s normal for campers (and their parents!) to feel nervous about being away from home and is a natural part of the overall camp experience.
Each of our programs is grounded in our deep-rooted traditions and mission-based philosophy. Sessions at our Yosemite location give the quintessential “camp” experience, including hiking, swimming, boating, campfires, sing-alongs and arts and crafts in a group-centered environment. Our Teen Adventure Quests take camp on the road for the ultimate adventure-based road trip. To discuss your child’s particular needs, please call our office to speak with a director. We’re happy to help!
Are Tawonga staff prepared to work with my child?
Yes! We carefully train our staff to meet your child’s social, recreational, and physical needs. Each session, a total of 160 counselors, supervisors, specialists, and support staff serve 275 children — a better than two-to-one camper-to-staff ratio. The minimum certification for any Tawonga staff member working with children is CPR and First Aid, and Wilderness Leaders are certified as Wilderness First Responders. We know how to treat each child as a precious individual and, at the same time, facilitate the kind of immersive group living and bonding experiences for which Tawonga is renowned.
I’m worried my child will be homesick. How will you handle this?
We regard “homesickness” as a normal, healthy occurrence for children and refer to this as “missing home” to help differentiate the feeling from a sickness. Our staff members pay attention to your child’s emotional adjustment to camp and are trained to provide appropriate support through that process. If needed, your child’s bunk counselor will get additional help from Unit Heads, Camp Therapist and Directors. We are ready!
My kids are really picky eaters. Will they like the food at camp?
Yes! We recently completed a million-dollar expansion of the Tawonga kitchen, so we can prepare nutritious and delicious fresh foods that address a variety of dietary needs, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and lactose intolerance, as well as other allergy restrictions. We make as many foods as possible from scratch, and strive to use organic and locally sourced foods when possible. Snacks are available throughout the day and at meals, including fresh fruits and vegetables, string cheese, and crackers. In addition to the main entrée, there is always a protein alternative—like egg salad, hummus, or tuna, plus sun-butter and jelly. Outdoor BBQs feature hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and veggie burgers, as well as pasta salads and fresh fruit. Food at Tawonga is kosher-style, so we separate milk and meat, and we never serve non-kosher foods, such as pork or shellfish.
My child has never backpacked and doesn’t have a pack. Is this pretty typical?
Yes! Our Wilderness Leaders are experienced backcountry experts chosen for their sensitivity and their ability to help kids feel comfortable in nature. They select destinations that match the ability and interests of each cabin group and are dedicated to making the overnight experience fun, positive, and group building. We have a full inventory of backpacks, stoves, and all the gear necessary for safe, exciting overnights in Yosemite and the surrounding National Forest. Your child just needs to bring a sleeping bag and comfortable hiking shoes.
Will my child have a positive Jewish experience?
Yes! Judaism is infused into daily life at camp, from the Hebrew blessings we sing at every meal to the mindful way that we treat each other. Your child’s Jewish experience will come through exploring Jewish values, customs, and traditions. The Jewish feeling at Tawonga is a happy blend of cultural pride and a warm welcome to kids of all backgrounds.
Tawonga campers include kids who are very connected (through synagogue, JCC, or day school), some kids for whom Tawonga is their primary Jewish experience, plus a few who are not Jewish. They all share great Jewish experiences because we offer – and never force – a positive, fun, inspirational, and uplifting “buffet” of Jewish experiences.
Shabbat is a highlight at camp, starting with a delicious Friday night dinner followed by joyful singing and dancing. Kabbalat Shabbat and Saturday morning Torah services are held outdoors against the gorgeous backdrop of tall trees, blue skies, and the Tuolumne River. Your child will come home with a new appreciation for the beauty of our Jewish heritage and a deepened sense of pride in their own identity.
Whether your family attends synagogue regularly or never at all, Tawonga is a warm and welcoming Jewish home for your child.
We’ve heard so much about Camp Tawonga and would love to see it. Can parents visit camp?
Yes! And no. Yes, you should bring your whole family up for a weekend program at Tawonga to meet our wonderful staff, see our beautiful property, and get a taste of the Tawonga experience. Or, you can call us and arrange to join us for lunch and a tour during one of these weekends. But no, you cannot visit your child while they are attending a session at camp. This would interfere with you and your child making a healthy separation, which is a big part of the way kids gain confidence and maturity at camp.
Our family has a decent income but camp still feels out of reach. Can we qualify for financial assistance?
We recognize that the expense of summer camp may feel out of reach even for families with an otherwise comfortable income. Assistance is provided confidentially, in a way that reflects not just your income but also special circumstances. You should definitely apply. To see a full list of financial options, call us at 415.543.2267, or click here.
Have a different question? Email [email protected] or call us at 415.543.2267 to get an answer from a Tawonga staff member.
My child has never been to camp and doesn’t know anyone. Is this typical?
Yes! Every session has a mix of new and returning campers. Tawonga has built its reputation as a warm, welcoming place for every child by paying careful attention to the emotional experience of each and every camper. We create a non-competitive environment in which there is no hierarchy between kids. Our group-centered philosophy brings kids of diverse experience and backgrounds together and facilitates deep and lasting friendships. Remember, everyone has a first summer at camp.