This California camp lets Jews of Color like me just be ourselves

By Jordan Daniels

Have you ever heard the woods sing “B’tzelem Elohim”?

The whistle between trees carries the melody. The acoustics of boulders amplify the reach of the lyrics: “When I reach out to you and you to me/We become B’tzelem Elohim.”

It is in the divine image — B’tzelem Elohim — when an intergenerational and multiracial group of Jews gather, if only for a weekend. It’s incredibly spiritual when you can just be with other Jews of Color without having to explain your existence.

California’s Camp Tawonga is a place where that happens, yet I never knew about it until last year. I met its assistant director, Kiyomi Gelber, in January 2020 at the Jews of Color retreat of Bend the Arc’s Selah Leadership Program. I had told her I had never been to overnight camp. She spoke with excitement about this one, describing a summer oasis near Yosemite, and you could see joy take shape in her eyes. She told me one day I’d get to experience its beauty …

This article was originally published in Forward on October 21, 2021. To keep reading, click here.

Jordan Daniels is a Black/Jewish/Queer writer of fashion, belonging, liberation and LGBTQ+ experiences. His work has appeared on the JTA, EJewishPhilanthropy, Wear Your Voice Magazine and other media outlets.

Tawonga is pleased to offer a Jewish Families of Color Weekend once again in 2022 – learn more here