Camp Tawonga, Scarred by Tragedy, Is Cornerstone for Bay Area Jews

For Many, Faith Crystallized in Idyllic Spot Near Yosemite

camp tawonga

By Arno Rosenfeld

Published July 09, 2013.
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At San Francisco’s Temple Sherith Israel, a stained-glass window installed in 1905 depicts Moses bringing the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments down from El Capitan, the vertical rock formation towering over the Yosemite Valley.

Hannah Horowitz grew up north of San Francisco in an area with few Jews. A former camper and counselor at Tawonga, she said the camp helped her connect to nature and make connections with other Jewish youth.

“For the first time, I had a whole community of Jewish peers that I was really close with,” Horowitz said.

Joni Gore had a similar experience. She grew up attending a Conservative congregation, but only at Tawonga was she was able to explore Judaism on her own terms, she said.

“Tawonga helped shape my Judaism by making me focus more on a cultural aspect and on what kind of a person I wanted to be, not necessarily that I have to go to synagogue every Saturday,” Gore said.

David Waksberg, CEO of Jewish Learning Works, San Francisco’s board of Jewish education, said the camp has been successful at helping the campers find their Jewish identity meaningful.

“Tawonga has done a great job in delivering Jewish learning in an experiential way to northern California families in ways that are authentic and meaningful to people here,” he said.


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