Camp Tawonga Saves Torah Scroll as Wildfire Rages

Largest Blaze in Calif. History Races Through Yosemite

Saved: Counselor clutches a Holocaust-era Torah scroll saved from onrushing wildfire that threatened Camp Tawonga near Yosemite National Park.
nbc bay area
Saved: Counselor clutches a Holocaust-era Torah scroll saved from onrushing wildfire that threatened Camp Tawonga near Yosemite National Park.

By JTA

Published August 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The largest wildfire in California’s history has led to the evacuation of a Jewish summer camp and destroyed at least one of its buildings, but a staffer managed to save a Holocaust-era Torah scroll.

The Yosemite Rim Fire triggered the cancellation of Camp Tawonga’s annual Keshet LGBTQ Family Camp, San Francisco’s j. weekly reported.

On Friday, Tawonga Executive Director Ken Kramarz said in a post on Facebook that one cabin had burned, and that downed power lines, fallen trees and “active fire” had made the last 1.5 miles of road to the camp impassable.

Earlier last week, camp director Jamie Simon-Harris emailed the board of directors and board alumni to report that the fire line was holding and flame retardant had been dumped on all “essential structures,” according to a report in the j. weekly.

“As Shabbat arrives tonight, I urge every Tawongan to pray for the safety of the firefighters,” Kramarz wrote on Facebook.

In 1999, a forest fire destroyed several buildings on the perimeter of the camp, according to the j. weekly.

The fire is burning over 143,980 acres and is only 7 percent contained. On Monday, the fire destroyed the Berkeley Toulumne Family Camp, a city-owned camp for residents, the Bay City News reported.

Camp Tawonga said one staff building had burned, but as of Monday morning, there were no new reports of damage.

A counselor, Sam Quintana, was able to retrieve the Torah, on Friday and bring it to safety at the camp’s San Francisco headquarters, NBC reported

The Torah is a remnant from the Holocaust. It was originally saved from a small Czech village during World War II.

“We’re so thrilled it is safe,” Camp Tawonga director Jamie Simon-Harris told NBC Bay Area on Monday.

In July, a falling tree at Camp Tawonga struck five counselors, killing one and severely injuring two others.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.