We are so thrilled to spotlight a special Tawongan today: Vicki Maler, who is in her second year on Tawonga’s staff, working as our Jewish Program Director!
Vicki graduated from the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in 2017 and spent the following year living in Israel and traveling to 13 countries including India, Morocco, Greece, Bulgaria, Spain and Portugal. Throughout her travels she studied Jewish history, culture and Hebrew. Vicki was a camper for many years and continued her Tawonga career through our Counselor In Training program. She also works with the Tawonga Bar & Bat Mitzvah Program during the off-season.
We are so lucky to have Vicki on Tawonga’s team! Check out her staff spotlight below:
Tell me about your time at Tawonga
“I started coming to Tawonga in 2010 as a camper, and it was my first exposure to Judaism and what it means to be Jewish. I spent a lot of my middle school years growing up in the Bay Area, and as a child I was ‘literally obsessed’ with Camp and my friends from Tawonga.
As an only child from a Russian-Jewish family, I really learned what it means to be part of a community and how to be a woman and the best version of myself while at Camp. Tawonga was the first place where I had sisters. It taught me how to share and it helped me develop awareness of myself and others through living at Camp.”
What kept you coming back?
“Every summer at Tawonga just kept getting better and better, but one of the main reasons I kept coming back was former Associate Director Katie Quinn. Katie always believed in me and knew that I could be my best self here. She taught me to never give up on myself.”
What makes you love your job?
“What’s exciting about being the Jewish Program Director this year is that I’ve built many strong connections with the Tawonga community through being a camper, counselor and working in the Bar & Bat Mitzvah program.
A lot of kids can come to Camp with preconceived notions that Jewish programs aren’t the most fun things to do, but because of my involvement and familiarity with the kids, it made them really excited to learn about something that they might have not been super excited about before.
So many kids have come up to me this year, saying ‘Wow, that was the best Ruach Hour I have had at Tawonga.’ It’s so awesome to see so many kids falling in love with Judaism and Tawonga the same way that I did.”
Favorite Tawonga or Jewish activity?
“My favorite Jewish activity is a mikvah. This was always one of the highlights of the session when I was a camper, and now it’s my favorite activity to lead as a programmer. First of all, the river is the most beautiful spot at Camp, and experiencing a bunk of girls share some of their innermost thoughts with the rest of their bunkmates followed by dunking in the Tuolomne River is one of the most transformational experiences at Camp. This is an age-old Jewish cleansing ritual and tradition that Tawongans have adopted and developed into something meaningful and relevant.”
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.)
“You can never spend too much time in a body of water.”
Any closing thoughts?
“When I first started working for Tawonga last summer, it was a really weird feeling because I thought that the magic that I experienced as a camper was ending, but slowly I realized that there was even more magic in being part of creating the experience and building relationships with campers. Also, working with the people that I’ve considered my best friends for the past eight years is the coolest feeling ever.”