Beyond the Bimah

Tawonga just launched our very first bar and bat mitzvah training in the Bay Area, and I am so excited to offer more context here on our blog about this program.

At Tawonga, we bring a near century of expertise in youth development and nature-based Jewish programming to build self-esteem in kids and to facilitate their connection to Judaism. By experiencing adventure and fun in the outdoors within the larger Camp community, kids find their voice in the world while at the same time appreciating that the world is bigger than themselves.

They also connect deeply to Judaism, exploring personal connections to a broad variety of Jewish customs, practices, and celebrations. Our campers consistently return home more confident, more thoughtful and more connected to their Jewish identity and community. The Tawonga approach to Judaism and spirituality resonates with youth and inspires them to go home feeling excited about being Jewish.

We are so thrilled to apply this approach (that families and kids love) toward the age-old milestone of becoming a Jewish adult. Beyond the Bimah, our new b’nai mitzvah program which will launch its first student cohorts this fall, will take that Tawonga approach and infuse it into a two-year, holistic, experiential and individualized bar and bat mitzvah preparation.

Guided by trained Tawonga leaders, participants will help to create their own personal journey into Jewish adulthood. Together, they will explore what it means to their own lives, their family and their broader community to take this step toward becoming a Jewish adult. Key program components include:

  • Learning alongside a cohort of fellow students through intensive interactive classes rooted in Jewish text, social justice, and tikkun olam;
  • Immersing in nature through outdoor programming and retreats;
  • Developing and completing a community “mitzvah” or service project, among other program elements

During this layered approach to exploring Jewish adulthood, participants may choose to have a bar or bat mitzvah service at Tawonga, back home, or to opt for an alternative culmination. But regardless of the service, Beyond the Bimah is designed to go beyond that singular day or celebration – and to lay a lasting, personal foundation to live a meaningful, rich Jewish life.


Jamie Simon is the Associate Executive Director of Camp Tawonga. Registration is now open for Beyond the Bimah to 6th graders for fall 2016, though grade exceptions can be made for 5th and 7th graders. You can learn more about the program here, or reach Lauren Parker, program coordinator, at (415) 543-2267, or at

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