May Her Memory Be a Blessing

Dear Tawonga Community,

We share with profound sadness that yesterday, Ann Gonski, beloved former Tawonga Director, passed away peacefully after a short illness while in the loving presence of her husband John and brother Richard.

Ann came to Camp Tawonga in 1986, serving as Director alongside Ken Kramarz and Deborah Newbrun. Together, this triad stewarded the agency for 20 years, growing Tawonga’s reputation to become one of the country’s preeminent Jewish summer camps. While Ken and Deborah relocated to our Yosemite location each summer to run Camp’s programs, it was Ann who remained in San Francisco to lead the agency’s administrative work.

If you were a camper in the 80s, 90s, or early 2000s, it was Ann who carefully assigned your bunk and launched your journey toward lifelong Tawonga friendships. If you were a parent of a camper during that period, it was Ann who patiently listened to your concerns and assured you that your child was well cared for during their session. If you worked on our staff or served on our Board of Directors during that time, you knew Ann as the “behind the scenes” director who so lovingly supported Tawonga’s mission, vision and values. Ann was the proverbial glue behind the glitter of Camp. 

Ann was known as a gentle, kind and passionate leader. Though a self-proclaimed introvert, she was energized by giving voice to many programs and people at Tawonga. Longtime friend and colleague Deborah Newbrun reflected that “Ann was the conscience of the agency for many years; the social justice values that Tawonga now embodies emanated from Ann. She truly walked her talk. She ensured we approached the families we served with an ethical behavior that put them at the center of our work.”

Ann’s ethos remains palpable in Tawonga’s work today. She championed Tawonga’s deep commitment to camper care, brought heart and sensitivity to the Campership process of awarding financial assistance grants to families in need and believed that each camper was Tawonga’s most important one. 

Ann used her life experience to inform her passions and her work. Born in South Africa, and raised there and later in Israel, Ann encountered deep grief at a young age, first losing her father and then sister. Throughout her life, Ann fought for, in her words, “urgent battles for equality, justice and on.” In the late 1990s, Ann collaborated with the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center and Jewish Family and Children's Services to develop “Grief and Growing,” a retreat hosted for over a decade at Tawonga, that centered the process of mourning and healing for individuals and families in their darkest days. 

In the early 2000s, Ann oversaw the Noar l’Noar (youth to youth) program and pioneered bringing an ethnically and religiously diverse group of Israeli campers to Tawonga. Ann and Ken worked with Jewish and Palestinian dialogue groups to facilitate four years of the Oseh Shalom-Sanea al-Salam Peacemakers Camp, a retreat at Tawonga that brought Israeli and Palestinian participants together to foster dialogue and create connection.

From 2006 to 2007, Ann served as the Executive Director of Camp Tawonga, closing this chapter of her life in the same way it started – championing life-changing programs, bringing social justice work to the forefront of the agency and believing in the good of every individual.

Over the last 15 years, Ann worked throughout the Bay Area Jewish community, including as Interim Executive Director at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley. She returned to the classroom to earn her Master’s Degree in Gerontology and a second Master’s Degree in Social Work. Through her “second career,” Ann pursued her passion for helping individuals and their families during their final moments as a hospice social worker and death doula. In this role, Ann brought the same light, love and dignity to each person she supported.

Ann is survived by her husband, John Scott, whom she met volunteering with AIDS patients at the Zen Hospice Center of San Francisco in the 1980s, and their family including Matt Scott and their many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her brother Richard, sister-in-law Rachel and cherished niece and nephew Loren and Finn.

To know Ann, whether through work, friendship or a chance encounter, was to know an irreverent humor, quiet strength, unconditional compassion and brilliant mind. Please join us in sending Ann’s family healing prayers during this time of deep loss. If you would like to be included in future opportunities to gather in Ann’s memory or to share a message with her family, please add your information here.

May Ann’s memory forever be a blessing.

With love,

Becca Meyer

Chief Executive Officer

Ryley Katz

Senior Director of Programs & Innovation

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