History of Camp
Summer camp is an integral part of the Reform Jewish experience in North America and we are proud of our 70+ year legacy of serving Jewish youth and teens in the West and Southwest. We were established in 1947, originally named Camp Saratoga, in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. In the early 1960s, we were renamed the UAHC (Union of American Hebrew Congregations) Swig Camp Institute, after Benjamin H. Swig, benefactor and visionary, allowing the camp to grow and flourish.
In 1997, we were able to purchase our second site, and current home on Porter Creek Rd., in Santa Rosa, and there established Camp Newman.
Since then, URJ Camp Newman has flourished, becoming the West Coast’s largest Reform camp. We serve over 1,400 campers each summer, drawing from over 80 congregations in Northern and Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Texas. Following the Tubbs Fire in 2017 which destroyed so much for our friends and neighbors in Sonoma County, we found a temporary home at Cal State Maritime Academy in Vallejo, enabling us to continue engaging hundreds of campers and staff over the course of summers 2018 and 2019. We again pivoted in the Summer of 2020, offering Zoomin’ with Newman and TeenFest virtual camp options, enabling nearly 200 children and teens to connect meaningfully online.
In Summer 2021, we finally returned home to Porter Creek, serving more than 715 campers and over 150 staff, faculty and volunteers. We’re thrilled to be back home, again, and truly believe the best is yet to come!
Before the fire: Our History in the Community
Camp Newman has a 70+ year history providing immersive Jewish learning and living on the West Coast. Our summer camp began on the shores of Lake Tahoe, migrated to the Saratoga mountains as the UAHC Swig Camp for Living Judaism, and then eventually settled in Santa Rosa. Since purchasing our Santa Rosa site in 1997, Six Points Community Center at Camp Newman has flourished to become the West Coast’s largest camp and retreat center – with a capacity of 700 people at a time, drawing over 2,000 Jewish children and adults each summer, and over 60,000 participant nights annually. Through both its Jewish summer camp and community retreat center, our Six Points Community Center provided Jews a distinctly Jewish and inspirational space to live Judaism 24/7, and provided the entire community a unique, safe and welcoming place for people of all ages and abilities to learn, live, grow, and play.
Before the Tubbs Fire in October 2017, our Six Points Community Center operated year-round and was growing in demand with an ever-increasing number of single- to multi-day retreats booked years in advance.
During the summer, Camp Newman provided a safe and welcoming environment for Jewish children and adults to pray and reflect, build community, foster friendships, become their best selves, explore their Judaism, and participate in social action causes – all in a unique, overnight immersive setting within nature. Throughout the rest of the year, our Six Points Community Center was used by a diverse range of groups and organizations for community center services. Highly used by Bay Area Jewish organizations, the center became a destination for congregations holding their religious school retreats and family weekends, Jewish high schools hosting their school groups, and organizations like the Jewish Healing Center to offer its Grief & Growing retreat.
The center provided both Jews and non-Jews in our entire community spaces where participants could foster connections, cultivate leadership, inspire social action, celebrate culture, and teach environmental stewardship. Multiple organizations, from tech companies to schools to non-profits, regularly used our Six Points Community Center for meetings, conferences, and extended community outreach activities. Individuals and groups also used the facility for counseling retreats, youth group activities, holiday celebrations, leadership trainings, professional development, family events and retreats, and group meetings.
All campers and retreat participants would take full advantage of our recreational offerings – our pool, ropes challenge course, Zipline, climbing wall, tower, playing fields, and basketball court – as a means to have fun, develop teamwork skills, challenge one another, and develop new skills. Campers and participants would also take every opportunity to explore the outdoors – 500 acres of hiking trails, a kibbutz (farm), a vineyard, and overnight sites.