San Jose federation trying to raise cash for Camp Swig

But the sale will not be final until both the national UAHC board and the Camp Swig board approve the contract. The national UAHC board will meet on Dec. 6 to decide on the issue and the Swig camp board is expected to vote on it in mid-December.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, UAHC's president, said in a phone interview Tuesday from New York that he "had not received a proposal, formal or informal, of an intention to raise money" to purchase the camp. But he said if a new offer "comes to us, we'll look at it and consider it."

This week, Yoffie sent a letter to Bay Area rabbis and community leaders that detailed UAHC's decision to sell Camp Swig and stated its commitment to transfer the delicate Jo Naymark Holocaust Memorial — which sits on the site — to Camp Newman in Santa Rosa.

In the letter, he noted the site's numerous problems: It lies on an earthquake fault; it's small and cannot be expanded; and many of the buildings are dilapidated. He added that the UAHC was faced with too large of an expense to repair the camp and not enough support from donors.

Meanwhile, the San Jose federation is scrambling to come up with the money. Jon Friedenberg, the federation's executive director, has spoken informally to the heads of the East Bay and San Francisco federations, asking for their support to buy the camp.

Friedenberg said that his federation, if it purchases the site, wants to work with the other federations to refurbish and maintain the summer camp, as well as make the site available to Jewish agencies for retreats throughout the year.

The Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay is "committed to supporting the concept of purchasing the [site]," said Ami Nahshon, its executive vice president. He wouldn't be more specific about how the federation might support the fund-raising.

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation confirmed it would help the San Jose federation to contact individuals who may be interested in helping purchase Camp Swig, although it has not been formally asked to do so. Also, a spokesperson said the federation currently isn't planning to use its fund-raising campaign to help buy the camp.

Friedenberg sent a letter this week to Raquel Newman, Camp Swig's board president, expressing interest in buying the site.

"I feel obligated to do whatever I can to keep Camp Swig in the community," he said. "I think we will be able to put together a credible offer, but we need more people to step forward."

One step has been taken by a potential donor who independently contacted the Bulletin, saying he would offer several hundred thousand dollars.

Wayne Chatoff, a Swig alumni who moved from San Jose to Nashville four months ago, made the offer.

"I don't think [the camp] ought to be sold to a corporation. It's too valuable a piece of property. I just think it's wrong," he said.

Other individuals are also trying to raise funds.

Shamy Noily in Marin has sent hundreds of fund-raising letters to save the camp's Holocaust memorial. Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan of Reform Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco has sent more than 100 e-mails to those interested in Noily's campaign.

And a Web site has been set up at to collect funds for the camp. The site proclaimed it had raised over $7,000 as of Wednesday.

At Emanu-El last week, Reform rabbis and community leaders expressed their outrage to the Camp Swig board and UAHC officials over the sale of the site. Many were angry that it had not been made available for purchase by the Jewish community.

Yoffie did acknowledge some misgivings in the way the UAHC approached the sale.

"We regret not seeking broader input from the Camp Swig community, and especially from our rabbis, before deciding to enter an agreement with the development corporation," Yoffie's letter said.

In an interview, Yoffie said that in hindsight, the process should have been handled differently. More people should have been involved, he said, and UAHC should have made a more intensive effort to inform the community about the situation.

If Swig is sold, UAHC's only Bay Area site will be the 2-year-old Camp Newman, which is more than twice the size of Camp Swig.

Newman said that when the offer came to buy Camp Swig, "we took a great deal of time in considering it. This camp was never meant to be up for sale. We intended to keep running it, even though it was losing money."

She added that Swig could not run a deficit since it receives no money from the UAHC. She also confirmed that the board would be open to other offers to purchase the site.

The offer from the development company "is here and it's real. Maybe someone else will come up with something else different and more suitable," she said.