Re-posted with thanks to the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma counties.

As the program officer for Jewish overnight camps at the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, I made it my mission this summer to visit all four Northern California camps to see, first-hand, how they are helping build the next Jewish generation with the Federation’s support.

It was at my final Shabbat at Camp Tawonga, just outside Yosemite, when the power of camp suddenly came clear.  As the morning sun filtered through the trees at Makom Shalom (“Place of Peace” in Hebrew, Tawonga’s outdoor sanctuary), Camp Director Becca Meyer shared a Hasidic tale:

A child liked to wander off into the woods every day.  The rabbi asked him, “What do you do in the woods every day?”  The child answered,“I go into the woods to talk to G-d.”  “But,” said the rabbi, “you don’t need to go into the woods to talk to G-d.  G-d is the same everywhere.”  The child thought about this for a moment and replied, “Yes, G-d may be the same everywhere, but I am different in the woods.”

And it is true.  We are all “different” in the woods…

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Wendy Verba, WHP Alum (San Francisco 14)  is a senior program officer at the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, where she leads partner relations, community building and convening, facilitates strategic grantmaking and manages a portfolio of agency relationships.  Prior to that, she worked as an independent consultant with foundations and community organizations to help them design, fund and launch programs that improve life in the Bay Area.  Wendy has served on the boards of UpStart, the Peninsula Jewish Community Center and the Berger Institute for Work Family and Children, and on UpStart’s CEO search committee.  She can be reached at