by John Ramos

VALLEJO (KPIX) — For 70 years Camp Newman has offered Jewish kids all the traditional fun of summer camp, along with an emphasis on spiritual growth. But, in October, that faith was tested when they learned their Santa Rosa campus had been destroyed by the Tubbs Fire.

“I just remember … losing breath and having to run outside,” remembers camp counselor Rudy Brandt.

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“We were in shock and we were traumatized,” said Ruben Arquilevich, executive director of Camp Newman. “All we could do was hold each other and cry for the first six to ten hours.”

Arquilevich was left wandering in the wilderness looking for a new home. Then came a lucky break. Some might even call it a miracle.They got an offer to use the campus of California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo and Ruben was able to part a sea of red tape to make it happen in time for this summer.

“This normally would take one to three years to find, secure, negotiate a contract and we were able to pull it off in three weeks,” Arquilevich said. “I just consider it one of the miracles of this entire past year.”

Now, as always, the camp is buzzing with the usual activities: music, lanyard-weaving, a dance class that turned into a flash mob.

But there are new opportunities as well, like a yoga class right on the bay and even an indoor beach volleyball court.

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Everyone is still sad about their old camp but the cool breeze and views of the water are a pretty good consolation prize.

“We’re still at the camp community,” said ten-year-old Cormac Nolan. “We’re still home with everybody else … (and) the food’s better! ”

So, while what happened is still painful, it is through a shared struggle that the strongest friendships are forged.

Camper Sam Taxay was philosophical. “The fact that we all lost this big, y’know, this home and there was something looming over us I think brought us all closer together as friends.”

Some might call that a blessing in disguise.

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Executive Director Arquilevich says they intend to rebuild but it could be a year before they can figure out how long that will take. He says they plan to return to the Maritime Academy, at least through next summer.