On July 3, 2013, Annais Rittenberg was crushed to death by a massive falling limb from an 80-foot oak tree as she ate breakfast at Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp near Yosemite. Annais, 21, was an art teacher at the camp. The Tuolumne County sheriff, who isn’t a certified arborist, quickly labeled Annais’ death a “freak accident” and an “act of nature.” The camp conducted no investigation and chose not to tell its campers what had happened. The camp’s director, in an email to parents, wrote that the next session would start as scheduled, promising campers “the great Tawonga experience that they know and love.”
Camp Tawonga simply wanted this to go away. But its leadership failed Annais, Annais’ family and its own mission. As another summer approaches and new information about the camp’s systematic failings is finally coming to light, this community and especially parents of campers should know the full truth about Camp Tawonga’s darkest hour.
It’s time for accountability. Read the documents to see for yourself.
THE FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW
These are some of the facts obtained through sworn depositions in a recently settled lawsuit with all four counselors children affected by the tragedy. Camp Tawonga has positively impacted a lot of people, and it has used the powerful emotional bonds between its community and the camp to distort and disguise the truth about Annais’ death.
Annais didn’t have to die, the camp leadership should be replaced, and every Tawonga parent should be asking important questions to ensure the safety of their children. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.
Rest in power, Annais!