Session 3

The Magic of the Tuolumne River

Greetings and Shabbat Shalom from the second Shabbat of Session 3! 

As Shabbat is after all a day of rest and reflection, this morning, campers enjoyed the time-honored Tawonga tradition of sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely bagel buffet breakfast. The rest of the day was filled with soulful singing at Makom Shalom for Torah Service and exploring Shabbat Floats. More traditions continue tonight, including our Saturday night BBQ, camper Talent Show and Havdalah service, which means “separation” in Hebrew and closes out Shabbat as we welcome a new week. 

In other news, today on the blog we are pleased to share a glimpse into a treasured experience at Tawonga for both campers and staff – time at the river (or “riv” as many Tawongans say)! We’re blessed to have the Tuolumne River, which flows for 150 miles from the central Sierra Nevada into the San Joaquin River in the Central Valley, run right through the southern edge of our property. Whether for relaxation or for fun, the river provides a place of respite, peace and beauty  – all just a ten minute hike from the main area of Camp. 

This session and all season long, campers are safely enjoying the river at multiple spots on property such as Pipeline, Secret Beach, Ladybug Cove and Paradise Island. Bunks visit these spots to swim and enjoy lunch outdoors, to watercolor or journal, rockhop downstream or even enjoy some live music performed by a songleader. For all visits to the river, there is always one staff member for every nine campers present, as well as a lifeguard.

Of the activities enjoyed at the river, one of the most meaningful is the Jewish ritual of mikvah, which at Tawonga is a purposeful and cleansing immersion in the river, often experienced hand-in-hand as a group. Mikvahs can be done as a bunk to set intentions, give thanks, release the things we seek to let go of, or commemorate an occasion. No matter the goal, the feeling of plunging into the cold waters of the Tuolumne with friends is a memorable and powerful experience for all who partake.

A few staff members shared their favorite mikvah ritual with us: while holding hands standing in a circle, a group dunks under the water three times, each time with a specific intention. During the first dunk, they think about what they’d like to give to the river, the second what they’d like to get from the river, and the third to show gratitude to the river. These moments of mindfulness and reflection are such a meaningful way to interact with nature, and are an iconic part of the Tawonga experience.

Humans have inhabited the Tuolumne River and surroundings for up to 10,000 years, using the area for hunting and trade, then gold prospecting and agriculture. Now when we visit the river, we honor the history of the land and its people, and look forward to how we can protect this hallowed space in the future. We treasure the sounds of water gurgling over smooth granite, the dusty sunlight filtering through the towering pines and the cool smell of the wildflowers along the banks. For generations to come, we look forward to welcoming Tawongans of all ages to appreciate the majesty and bounty of the Tuolumne.

Shavua Tov! (A good week!)