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Jewish summer camp, retreat takes form north of Santa Rosa

  • Advancement Director with Camp Newman, Ari Vared, surveys the construction of several new cabins on Monday, March 11, 2013. Camp Newman recently received a $1 million grant from the Jewish Community Federation and is in the middle of a $30 million campaign to renovate the retreat. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

A Jewish summer camp and retreat just north of Santa Rosa is in the midst of $30 million expansion that eventually will allow 13,000 visitors a year.

Camp Newman, which has been at the nearly 500-acre site on Mark West Springs Road since 1997, would become one of the largest such Jewish facilities on the West Coast.

The reconstruction includes renovation and addition of new cabins, a large dining hall, conference rooms, a wellness center and infrastructure improvements.

Camp Newman Renovations

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"We want to be around and relevant for the next 100 years," said Ari Vared, the camp's advancement director.

About $12 million has been raised through grants and community donors, including a $5 million grant from the camp's parent organization, the Union for Reform Judaism. The group just recently received $1 million from the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco.

The property for decades was a culinary academy for the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards, and many of the 75-plus buildings on the campus are outdated.

"The facilities were getting tired, and we wanted to be able to serve the community better with more modern facilities," said Jim Heeger, chairman of the camp's master plan and construction committee. "Our goal is to invest now in a facility that will be here for the next two or three generations."

Investing in future generations is a large part of Camp Newman's goals, which are encapsulated by the phrase "I am my best self." The phrase came from one of the campers and became a slogan of sorts, said Vared.

Campers take part in a variety of philanthropic efforts, and learn how to understand and appreciate each other's differences, Vared said.

"What we do is kind of create an oasis in the world today, especially for kids," said Vared. "With the pressures of college and technology, we're seeing that we're becoming increasingly more important."


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