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.
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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.


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