By: Noah Zaves
Last month, Tawonga’s Young Alumni Board returned home to Camp. Together, this group of alums, mostly in our 20s and 30s, have accumulated more than 200 seasons at Camp. From the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Portland and New York City, we gathered to vision and plan for the upcoming year, learn what’s new at the organization and connect with the summer staff.
The Alumni Board is now four years old and was created to enhance engagement with Tawongans between their staff years and Family Camp years. We are a dedicated group helping to plan meaningful programs and other means of connection for young adults in the Tawonga community.
You’re probably familiar with our Erev Rosh Hashanah Celebration, and our Social Justice-oriented Passover seder, but did you know that we’re expanding our programming across North America? Last year, we started a new “Shabbat@Home” event so Tawongans across the country could host dinners for new and old friends, and we’re planning even more events outside of the Bay Area this coming year.
While on Tawonga’s property, we were excited to discover that Camp is undergoing an exciting transformation! The values are the same as they’ve been since my first years as a camper, and the staff continues to model dedication and professionalism, but Camp’s infrastructure is getting some timely updates.
Now, Tawonga’s facilities can better support our evolving mission, from weatherized four-season buildings, to environmentally sustainable construction, to gender-sensitive restroom facilities. Since I started as a counselor in 2005, Tawonga’s kitchen has quadrupled in size to prepare fresh, healthy, locally-sourced food for our community, no matter the dietary restrictions.
My favorite part of the Alumni Board is the diversity of our members. Some were my own counselors growing up, and some worked recently over the last few summers. We represent all of Camp’s departments, and have gone on to pursue tremendously diverse career paths, but we all share a common identity as part of the Tawonga family. As a Board, we’re committed to making sure that everybody feels welcome and engaged at Tawonga.
“The Young Alumni Board retreat was such a meaningful and bonding experience,” Co-Chair Perry Fox reflected as we closed out the retreat. “I am leaving with a full heart and feeling inspired and motivated for the work ahead to support the alumni community.”
In Jewish tradition, we are instructed to plant carob trees in our communities. These trees will not bear fruit for 70 years, but we’re intended to plant the trees so our grandchildren can eat the fruit, as our own grandparents would have done for us. Each of us on the Alumni Board have been deeply moved by our Camp experience, and we appreciate the privilege of helping to facilitate that experience for the new generation of campers and staff members.
Noah Zaves spent seven years as a camper at Tawonga, followed by 10 summers on staff. Noah has run programming for schools, congregations, and youth groups across every denomination, often with a focus on activism and justice. He also ran operations for several national Jewish organizations, including the Union for Reform Judaism and Repair the World. Noah graduated from the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University, with a Nonprofit MBA and a second Masters focusing on experiential Jewish education.