Sarah’s story with Tawonga began in 2002 when she joined the summer staff as a counselor. After falling in love with the land, community and culture, she returned many summers as a Lifeguard, Office Staff Member and Office Manager. After earning a degree in Business Management from Chico State and spending two years in Japan teaching English, Sarah joined the year-round team from 2008 – 2018 where she served as the Accounts Receivable and Financial Assistance Manager. In addition to her role in the Finance Department, Sarah managed logistics for many large scale annual events including Ruach Rides, Erev Rosh Hashanah Celebrations and at Camp weddings.
In 2018 Sarah bittersweetly said goodbye to Tawonga and the Bay Area and moved with her husband Avi, their three sons Harley, Asa, Ari and their toy poodle Otis, to a small town on the Pudget Sound in Washington state to live a quieter life with more nature and less people. For three years Sarah enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom, exploring the Pacific Northwest beaches, forests and parks with her kids.
Fast forward to 2021, Sarah’s boys are all in school, and she is ecstatic to rejoin Tawonga’s year-round team as Staff Accountant, where she looks forward to helping bring Tawonga’s mission to life.
Kevin Saephanh joined Tawonga’s finance team in the Fall of 2021 as our Human Resource and Finance Coordinator. He graduated from Sacramento State in 2016 with a Bachelors in Psychology and a strong emphasis in I/O and Social Psychology. Kevin brings to Tawonga years of experience as an HR generalist, specializing in HR operations and administration.
Kevin’s passion for people and culture is only outweighed by his dedication to service. During college, he held various leadership positions in community service organizations on campus. His favorite recurring service event was Relay For Life, where he helped fundraise over $10,000 for the Natomas Sacramento Cultural Center.
On weekends, you’ll find Kevin with his partner and a few friends at Golden Gate Park, enjoying a picnic with Karl the Fog. Kevin is also an aspiring capoeirista and enjoys playing piano, settling down with a good novel and listening to the rain.
Sean grew up under the big oaks of Ohio, using his imagination to transform his surroundings into magical worlds filled with exploration and curiosity. In 2001 he packed his bags and moved east to Baltimore, MD to pursue a degree in fine arts. The joy Sean first experienced when collaborating with a group of youth proved his love of learning and encouraged the pursuit of a Masters of Art in Community Art. Since then, Sean has remained committed to creating meaningful experiences for people of all ages. For over a decade, Sean has worked in collaboration with diverse communities across the country and he is thrilled to find himself now a part of the Tawonga family.
Sean, Leyla, and their son Victor absolutely love exploring the West Coast and if they aren’t climbing a hill, swimming in a river, or picnicking on a beach, you might find them at the library, at home cooking, or in the studio painting.
A Bay Area native, Frisco grew up attending Tawonga as a camper and returned as a staff member in 2002 to work as a prep cook — the first step in his long career working in kitchens. After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he went on to work in restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn for the next 8 years. Frisco eventually rose to Executive Chef at three restaurants simultaneously: Walter’s, Walter Foods and Karasu (and opened two of them!). In addition to cooking, Frisco is passionate about coaching basketball; he spent the last three years as an assistant coach at Millbrook School in New York, focusing on skill development and harnessing the joy of the game.
Frisco lives in Berkeley and coaches boys basketball at Miramonte High School in Orinda. While not working in the Tawonga office or on the basketball court, Frisco enjoys being outdoors as much as possible – and if inside, he’s usually focused on sports or food!
Lisa has over twenty years in sales and marketing experience for leading Bay Area publishing and Internet companies. Prior to coming to Tawonga, she was Associate Director of Teens Turning Green, helping build a nationally recognized youth movement through managing programs, business development and fundraising, and promoting sustainability. Lisa volunteers on the executive board for the Women’s Philanthropy division of the SF Jewish Community Federation and is a member and former board president of the religious school at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. Melding her love of working with teens, environmental advocacy, and Jewish education, Lisa now feels incredibly fortunate to work for Camp Tawonga, where all of her interests intersect. She lives in Marin with her husband Matthew and has two grown children. She loves the outdoors and enjoys spending as much time at Camp as possible. Mostly, she loves getting to know this incredible community and calling herself a Tawongan!
Tom is a native of Chilicothe, Illinois. He moved to California in 2008 to join the US Marine Corps, where he spent 4 years on active duty stationed out of southern California. After the military he attended college majoring in diesel technology. Tom moved to Groveland in 2015 and started working at Camp Tawonga in 2018, where he works year-round performing buildings and grounds maintenance. He enjoys working with his hands and has a love for the outdoors. His hobbies include camping, offroading, traveling, motorcycling, watching his beloved Illinois sports teams, and enjoying quality time with family and friends.
Rona grew up in New England and spent four summers on the waterfront staff of Camp Ramah in Palmer. After college, she lived on a kibbutz in Israel for several years and outside Boston before finally making the move to the Bay Area. She has worked in ergonomics as well as in the Jewish community at Berkeley Hillel and most recently at the Jewish Federation of the East Bay. Rona lives in Berkeley, where she is an active member of Congregation Beth Israel, a vibrant modern orthodox community. In her free time, she can be found reading multiple books at one time or knitting. She is a graduate of Yale University and the proud mother of an aspiring writer. She is delighted to join the awesome team at Camp Tawonga!
Rachelle is an East Bay native with over 10 years of experience working in finance and human resources for a variety of software companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her weekends are often spent on road trips with her husband Gabe and their five kids. When not exploring, Rachelle can be found with her kids at the park, or at home with a book in hand. Rachelle lives in Antioch with her family and their Rottweiler.
Ben first encountered the “tall, tall trees” during the summer of 1996. It rained every day he was there and he vowed he would never come back. After his mom literally forced him on the bus two years later, the East Bay native can’t get enough of the Tuolumne River. Ben was a camper for five glorious summers and became a summer staff member in 2003. Ben has worn many hats during his 13 summers working at Camp: counselor, lifeguard, assistant director, driver, office staff, nanny, unit head and Teen Service Learning supervisor. Ben joined Camp Tawonga’s full-time staff in 2015 and he absolutely loves talking to parents about his experience and how meaningful it has been in his life. Ben lives in Kensington with with his partner Kelli (whom he met at Camp Tawonga) and their dog Sadie. In his free time, Ben likes to go on hikes, play Ultimate Frisbee and go to movies.
A native of Monterey County, Chris lives year-round at Camp Tawonga and oversees all operations with regards to our beautiful property (160 acres along the Tuolumne River, inside the Stanislaus National Forest, seven miles from Yosemite). Chris’ hobbies include restoring classic cars as well as carpentry.
Keith is originally from Paducah, Kentucky and joined Tawonga in 2015. Chris’ right-hand man, Keith makes sure that the mechanics of Camp run smoothly all year-round. As Camp Tawonga’s caretaker, Keith lives up at Camp throughout the entire year. Keith enjoys hiking, fishing, classic cars and living outdoors.
Phil first came to Tawonga as a camper in 1995, began sending his children to Tawonga in 2014, and joined the staff as the Senior Director of Finance and Administration in 2019. Phil is responsible for the organization’s financial health and processes, HR, and general operations. Prior to joining Tawonga, Phil served as the Director of Operations and Interim Co-Executive at Rising Sun Center for Opportunity. He has over 15 years of experience in the non-profit and public education sectors. Phil holds a bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego, a master’s degree in education from UC Berkeley, and an MBA from Saint Mary’s College of California. Phil is thrilled to bring these skills and experiences to Tawonga and the tall, tall trees. Outside of work, Phil enjoys spending time with his wife, Sonya, daughters Nayezca, Adayah, and Yaelah, and their dog Reggie. Phil lives in Berkeley, enjoys playing sports, loves the Oakland A’s and is in dogged pursuit of the perfect burrito.
Myla comes to Tawonga with over a decade of experience in environmental education and nonprofit leadership. She was a Tawonga camper and spent seven formative summers at Camp as a counselor, wilderness leader and wilderness supervisor. Prior to returning to Tawonga in her current role, Myla was the Director of Training at Playworks, a national youth development nonprofit. She also worked with Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors and guided youth on outdoor trips across the country. Myla earned her B.A. in environmental studies from Vassar College and a Masters in Public Administration with a focus in nonprofit management from the University of Oregon. She loves walking in Oakland’s redwood forests with her husband and fellow Tawongan, Wes, and their daughters Ariela and Nava as well as swimming in beautiful places with friends.
Ken was an L.A. lawyer when Tawonga recruited him to join the staff. That was 1981, and for most of the next 40 years, he served as Tawonga’s executive director. Now as special projects manager, Ken supports the preservation and restoration of our beautiful property on the Tuolumne River. Ken met his wife Felicia at Camp in 1982, and together they raised Ben, Jake and Anna, all of whom have worked at Tawonga. Ken is Tawonga’s resident expert in Tawonga’s 4,000 year history from its days as a Miwok village, through the Gold Rush ranch, to today. Ken is a nationally recognized expert in child safety and authored the “Emergency Playbook” used by camps, schools and JCCs across the country. Ken likes to say, “Be a channel, not a dam.”
Lori joined the Tawonga community when her kids, Maggie and Andy Polachek, became campers many moons ago. She went on to serve as a Tawonga board member from 2005-2011.
Lori launched her career at CBS News in New York, where she wrote and produced breaking news and special reports. Later at KPIX in San Francisco, she was the Executive Producer of Special News Projects, producing Emmy-winning investigative series and enterprise stories. Lori also taught broadcast news at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
More recently, at PRN (a former division of Technicolor), Lori led content creation and video production for scaled retail networks. In this role, she managed production teams and developed in-store B2C video marketing campaigns for major retailers and brands, including Costco, Target, Unilever, Disney and American Express. While at PRN, Lori also directed corporate marketing and spearheaded a women’s leadership initiative.
Lori holds an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. from UC Berkeley.
Ashley has called the Bay Area home since 2005 and comes to Tawonga with a background in working for local nonprofits. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where she received a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies from the College of Natural Resources and played for the university’s field hockey team (Go Bears!). After college, Ashley dabbled in environmental restoration, administration at the Downtown Oakland YMCA and as a peer provider at Mental Health Association of San Francisco. Ashley’s passion for the outdoors grew as manager of gear libraries and operations at Bay Area Wilderness Training, a nonprofit creating equitable access to the outdoors for youth of color and low-income youth. She also spent a year as a union carpenter. In her free time, Ashley plays in rec sports leagues, backpacks as often as possible and hikes around the East Bay hills.
Kiyomi began her journey with Tawonga as a counselor in 2004. She went on to be a Unit Head, supervisor of the CIT and SIT programs, supervisor/leader on TSL trips to Israel and Costa Rica and Summertime Assistant Director. Kiyomi has also worked in youth development and experiential education with diverse groups of young people through Mission Graduates, New Door Ventures, the Mosaic Project and Amigos de las Américas. Her hunger for learning and new experiences led her to intern on a farm in Italy and participate in the Dorot Fellowship in Israel. Kiyomi graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Environmental Analysis: Race, Class, Gender and the Environment and recently earned a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Education, where she studied Human Development and Psychology. Kiyomi is passionate about and committed to doing work that increases equity and justice. She is a certified yoga instructor and in her free time enjoys going on outdoor adventures, baking cookies, and hanging out with her amazing community of friends.
Shoshie has been a Tawongan for 20+ years, starting as a camper and working seasonally as a counselor, CIT leader, unit head and a summertime assistant director. She is excited to join the year-round team as the Assistant Director of Community Engagement and looks forward to sharing her passion and dedication for working with children and families. Prior to this role, Shoshie worked as a special education preschool teacher. She earned a B.A. in Developmental Psychology from UC Santa Cruz and a Masters of Infant Mental Health and an Early Childhood Special Education Credential from Mills College. Shoshie lives in San Francisco with her husband and enjoys traveling, cooking, camping, and spending time with friends, family, and babies.
Ashley grew up in Berkeley and didn’t realize when her parents put her on the bus to Camp Tawonga in July of 1993 that the following two weeks would impact the rest of her life. Ashley was a camper for six summers and became a summer staff member, first as counselor, then Unit Head, and TSL Trip Leader. Ashley joined the full-time staff in 2009 and most recently served as our Director of Community Engagement, taking care of our families and leading our Down the Mountain programs. Ashley graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies and has a true love of nature and being outside. When not in the office, Ashley loves spending time with her husband, Jamie and son, Erez.
With over 15 years of experience crafting strategic communications for nonprofits, Casey loves helping individuals and organizations tell their stories. At Tawonga, Casey has created the organization’s award winning impact report, led a website and video rebranding and created the agency’s first style guide. Casey has also helped place stories about Tawonga in dozens of publications, including The New York Times.
Casey earned a Masters in Public Administration with a focus in nonprofit management from USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy and a B.A. in history from Claremont McKenna College. She has also led programmatic and communications work at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council. Casey lives in Lafayette with her husband and fellow Tawongan, Matt, and their daughters, Sadie and Maya. When the pandemic is over, Casey will be heading to the nearest karaoke spot and for now enjoys serenading her family with songs from the Tawonga songbook.
Liz discovered Tawonga in 2015 as a counselor and continued working with campers for the next four summers, including as a Unit Head in 2018. She joined the year-round team in 2018 as the Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Liz received an Honors Bachelor degree in Sociology from Whitman College. She is passionate about social justice, connecting with nature and youth empowerment. At Whitman, Liz wrote an honors thesis that received the Ely Chertok award about Jewish Summer Camping which was heavily influenced by Tawonga! She presented her thesis at multiple conferences, which solidified her excitement to work for summer camping year-round. In her free time Liz loves to spend time outside, swim in any natural body of water possible, and cook (she won her college friends stir-fry off – watch out)! She is passionate about the transformative experience Camp brings to campers and staff alike and is thrilled to be on the year-round team.
Born and raised in Smithtown, NY, Mollie is thrilled to join the year-round Tawonga team! She has spent her career in various development and communication-related roles at the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, Ma’ase Olam and Avodah, where she also served as a corps member. Mollie earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Jewish studies from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in non-profit management from Hebrew University. Growing up, she attended Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, and today loves exploring her newfound home in the Bay. Mollie lives in Albany with her husband, Gil, and their children Liam, Eve and Sky.
Meg is a former Tawonga camper, staff member and supervisor. She served on Tawonga’s summer staff from 2012-2017 in various roles including Jewish Program Assistant and for three years as our Counselor and Specialist In-Training Supervisor. In 2018, Meg received a Masters of Religion from Yale Divinity School and in 2016, a certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults through Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. She is also an alumna of UCLA, Go Bruins! When she isn’t studying Torah or trying to create the best Jewish educational experiences, Meg loves to ride her bike, cook for her friends and family, and draw building portraits.
Becca first came to Tawonga in 2004 as a Unit Head and has served on the full-time staff since 2007. During her tenure as Associate Director, Becca managed many of Camp’s most complex activities, including backpacking, teen travel (Quest), transportation, and medical care at Camp. She grew up in New England and attended summer camp in Maine for 8 years. Becca moved to the Bay Area after graduating from Harvard with a degree in Comparative Religion. Prior to joining the full-time staff at Tawonga, Becca worked as a Staffing Director at Camp Walt Whitman, a private camp in New Hampshire, and served on the Steering Committee of the Emerging Professionals in Camping organization. Becca has coached girls’ lacrosse for 10 years and received a Double-Goal Coach Award from the Positive Coaching Alliance. Her passions include backpacking, trail running, birding, and being outdoors. She lives in Berkeley with her husband and two children. Her favorite Tawonga values are “The children always come first” and “Kaizen: continuous improvement.”
Jamie brings 17 years of leadership, training facilitation and management expertise to Tawonga. A nationally recognized leader and educator in her field, Jamie has led the agency to become a leader in the field on gender inclusion as well as justice and equity work.
An expert in women’s empowerment, career coaching, emergency preparedness and women’s health education, Jamie is an inspiring facilitator and teaches nationally on many topics. In 2020, Jamie was selected as an Emerge California Fellow for rising female leaders. She also serves on the Jewish Democratic Council of America’s NextGen Leadership Council and participated in the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Executive Leadership Institute.
For nearly two decades, Jamie has worked with Tawonga in various capacities. In 2017, she became Tawonga’s youngest executive director. In her current role as Chief Executive Officer at Tawonga, she has also mentored hundreds of emerging professionals.
Prior to Tawonga, Jamie worked as the prevention education director at United Against Sexual Assault in Sonoma County. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Women and Gender Studies from Sonoma State University. She loves working with youth and is passionate about politics and the San Jose Sharks. Jamie lives in Oakland with her husband and fellow Tawongan, Dan, and their sons, Ezra and Eli.
Aaron first came to Tawonga as a camper in 1994 and joined the staff as a counselor in 2002, which he says was the best job he’s ever had! In 2007, Aaron joined the year-round staff as Tawonga’s Teen Program Coordinator, moved on to become one of Camp’s Assistant Directors and in 2015 stepped into his current Associate Director role. One of Aaron’s passions is service learning and he completed the Jewish Service Learning Certificate Program at San Francisco State. In 2010 he participated in the Lekhu Lakhem fellowship, a Jewish educational leadership program for camp directors.