A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Wednesday for a new building on the grounds of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, Calif., which was largely destroyed in the 2017 Tubbs wildfire. The groundbreaking comes just weeks after another wildfire threatened other parts of the Santa Rosa community.

A whopping 80 percent of the camp’s structures were destroyed in the Tubbs fire. The soon-to-be built “6 Points Community Center” will allow for year-round programming on the grounds of the 500-acre camp.

“We are elated to be returning home,” Ari Vared, executive director of URJ Youth Camping West, told JNS. “This is a monumental milestone in our return to Santa Rosa, and it couldn’t have happened without the support that extends way beyond our camp gates—from our neighbors, to our city officials, to the governor’s office, to both Jewish federations in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and many, many more.

“It’s only been two years since the Tubbs Fire, and the fact that we’re here today, building this community center, is a testament to the number of friends, supporters and organizations that have helped us get here,” he continued. “And this is just the beginning. Camp Newman is coming back stronger and better than ever before.”

During the dedication ceremony, State Assemblyman Marc Levine presented camp officials with a check for $10 million, representing the two $5 million grants awarded to Camp Newman from the state of California, noting that “the rebuilding of Camp Newman has been a true community effort.”

Levine, former chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, added: “I look forward to welcoming families from throughout California to Camp Newman for generations to come.”

The money is part of a $23.5 million state budget allocation to help rebuild camps destroyed the Tubbs fire in Northern California and the Woolsey fire in Southern California in 2018. The allocation was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year as part of the 2019-20 annual budget.

Displaying funding amounting to $10 million to help rebuild Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, Calif., which was decimated by fire in 2017. Credit: Courtesy.

The Jewish community strongly advocated for passage of the camp aid.

“For any child, the summer-camp experience is a truly transformative gift, and the Federation is committed to standing with our camps as they rebuild,” Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said after the budget was passed. “The affected camps are vital institutions for so many—not just within the Jewish community, but for the greater community across the spectrum. They provide educational opportunities and resources to numerous entities year-round, and these funds are critical to continuing these programs.”

Construction on the Camp Newman community center is slated to be completed in late 2020 with initial programming to start in January 2021.

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