At Camp, a certain group of Tawongans is known as “lifers.” These individuals live and breathe Camp Tawonga, coming back year after year with a dedication that is to be admired. Eli Newbrun-Mintz, currently in his 20th summer at Camp, is one of those special Tawongans.
A Unit Head this summer, Eli’s start at Tawonga began in 1996 when he was just an infant, as his mom, Deborah Newbrun, is Tawonga’s former Camp Director (as well as our current Senior Jewish Educator). Eli graduated from UC Santa Cruz where he studied economics and linguistics. He then traveled in India and Southeast Asia before working for The New Israel Fund.
Enjoy this staff spotlight below on lifer Eli!
Tell me about your time at Tawonga.
“My first summer at Camp Tawonga was in 1996 — I was not one yet, and I’ve only missed two summers since then. My first summer as a camper was 2002, and my first summer on staff was 2014.
I remember my first night as a camper: I went up to my mom after she was doing the “Shalom Circle” and said, ‘Mom I don’t know if I can do it, I don’t want to do it.’ (meaning sleep in a bunk with other kids), and she told me ‘Eli, you can do it.’ After that, I was good.
My years as a camper blend together. I was a counselor for a total of three years. Then I was an Assistant Unit Head, and now I’m so excited to be a Unit Head.”
What kept you coming back?
“The feeling of home. Camp is my home. I never was upset leaving as a camper, because I always knew I was coming back. The friends I’ve made are a big part, and developing on a personal and professional level here. I’ve learned so many of my values and my interpersonal skills from coming to Camp.”
What makes you love your job?
“A camper who was in my first Session III bunk during my first year as a counselor was an IT (in our Counselor in Training program) this year. He was such a superstar camper and the first camper I saw grow up. Seeing him “on” with the kids was so cool. That was a really special L’dor Vador (generation to generation) moment. Seeing him passing on the things that I learned when I was an IT, and seeing him carry that on, and knowing that he’ll be on staff next summer, I’m sure.”
Favorite Tawonga activity?
“Arts and crafts. It’s chill but creative. When you’re working on an art project at A&C, it kind of lowers your social guard so you’re less tense, and you can just chat because you’re doing something with your hands. That’s a good feeling.”
What do you recommend?
(This question is currently “trending” at Camp during a favorite game, “Hot Seat.” It asks campers and staff to offer a totally random life-hack.)
“Label your water bottle.”
Any closing thoughts?
“Tawonga is a very important place to me, it’s central to my identity, and being on staff has been so cool. It feels like it’s totally come full circle.”
Thanks Eli for sharing your Tawonga experience with us!
In case you missed our last staff spotlight on first-time staff member Luisa Santana-Farias, check it out here.
Tawonga’s Staff Spotlight series showcases different members of Camp’s staff and the amazing work they do with campers. Click here to check out past Staff Spotlight posts.
Enjoy photos from Ruach hour, Arts and Crafts and more!
Who’s on deck?
Look forward to photos from Unit activities, Israel programming and Jailbreak!