SoCal Snowstorms Cause Heavy Damage to Jewish Camp, Retreat Center

A Jewish summer camp and retreat center was heavily damaged during the recent snowstorms in Southern California.
March 8, 2023

The Dovid Oved Retreat Center, home to the Moshava Alevy summer camp, is facing severe damage due to the series of recent winter storms in the mountainous region that reportedly dumped upwards of 12 feet of snow on parts of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The storm caused the dining hall of the Dovid Oved Retreat Center to collapse under the weight of the snow, according to Jonathan Gerber, founder of Moshava Alevy.

“Nothing’s built for 9-10 feet of snow up there,” Gerber told the Journal in a phone interview. “We lost our chadar ohel entirely.”

The Dovid Oved Retreat Center before the storm
After the storm

The full extent of the damage caused by the storms, however, was not immediately clear, as the retreat center remains inaccessible due to the hazardous conditions on the roads. 

“Because of the heavy snow and gas leaks in the area, the center’s local staff was unable to complete a full evaluation of the site, but they expect to see further damage to the campus,” Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles, which operates Moshava Alevy, said in a statement.

“Thankfully, despite the incredibly challenging conditions, all of our staff are safe,” Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles Executive Director Avi Matanky said. “However, we are now learning of the devastation to our campus.”

A chef who lives onsite at the retreat center was the first to discover the damage to the camp’s dining hall. He was trenching through over eight feet of snow to feed the animals on the property when he came across the destroyed facility. 

The Dovid Oved Retreat Center is located in Running Springs. With its scenic views, updated facilities and woodsy cabins, the center is a frequent destination for Los Angeles Jewish community groups. Every year, the center hosts more than 5,000 guests from corporate retreats as well as schools and synagogues from all denominations. 

In the summer months, the center is home to Moshava Alevy, a youth program of Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles that’s dedicated to training the next generation of Zionist leaders. Surrounding the center are the lakes and mountains of San Bernardino. 

The storms also led to the cancellation of five retreats at the Dovid Oved Retreat Center — groups that were expected between now and Pesach — resulting in more than $100,000 in lost revenues, according to Gerber. 

The number of cancellations and lost revenues is expected to grow.

On March 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency in San Bernardino County, which includes Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake.

“Safety is our top priority now,” Matanky said. “We have already issued cancellations through this upcoming weekend and will reevaluate once the roads are open, the state of emergency is lifted, and we are able to properly assess the damage.”

Bnei Akiva leadership has connected with the Shalom Institute’s Bill Kaplan about how to proceed with the aftermath of the damage to their camp. The Shalom Institute in Malibu was one of two Jewish camps severely impacted by the Woolsey Fire in 2018.

“We’re working with the Shalom Institute’s Bill Kaplan on how to proceed and who to call and what to do.” – Jonathan Gerber

Kaplan, chief executive officer of the Shalom Institute, provided indispensable guidance, Gerber said. “We’re working with the Shalom Institute’s Bill Kaplan on how to proceed and who to call and what to do.”

Moshava Alevy leadership does not expect the current damage to impact the camp’s ability to open in the summer. We expect this not to impact summer camp,” Gerber said. “We don’t have specifics on the damage or the time frame, but we expect by July we’ll be good to go.” The bad news, Gerber said, “is the unknown of the damage.”

Indeed, the campus could be facing millions of dollars in damages. Bnei Akiva plans to launch a relief campaign, seeking support from its constituents in order to support the staff for what it describes as a “very important community asset.”

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