by Thomas Hochman
I was not excited to take a religion class.
Consensus among many of those who had already completed their religion requirements seemed to be that I had little to gain from whichever course I ended up choosing, so I elected to take Judaism on a whim. It was a lucky decision.
Because Callie is the best. Ask anyone who has been lucky enough to take one of her classes this year and they’ll say the same. An OES alum and ordained rabbi, Callie managed to take control of a pretty difficult group — including students from three different grades and the always-dynamic trio of me, Vernon C., and Trevor J. — in her first time teaching, putting together the most engaging class I’ve ever taken.
Beyond simply teaching us a lot about the religion, the discussions that Callie started in class would often serve as a topic for subsequent conversations — first at lunchtime, and later at the dinner table. I remember someone saying one day after class that, “learning wasn’t supposed to be fun like that.” And it’s true. A Block didn’t feel like school.
That semester in Judaism was all about dialogue. Any deep dive into the religion is bound to bring up contentious topics — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anti-semitism, you name it — but instead of avoiding them, Callie had the class approach these conversations head on, a refreshing experience during the past election season, a time in which the idea of “civil discourse” was severely lacking.
Callie stepped in for Kara as my advisor, too, when Kara took time off from OES for the sake of mundane pursuits like “spending time with family” and “traveling the world” during the last few months of the school year. In the few weeks that she’s been our interim advisor, Callie has managed to upgrade Kara’s snack from carrots to something more edible and less demoralizing at eleven in the morning, a substantial accomplishment that the seven of us have been praying for since we arrived in room 81 as freshmen. It’s kind of a big deal.
Next year, Callie is headed to fill an Associate Rabbi position at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle — it’s the largest Reform Congregation in the Pacific Northwest, and happens to be where she got her start as a Youth Director before heading off to rabbinical school.
“It was a tough decision to leave Portland and OES after just getting reacquainted with the community, but I have missed my rabbinical duties,” Callie says.
So she’s off to bigger and better things. But regardless of who fills her role next year, it will be nearly impossible for someone to be as uniquely qualified to teach a religion class at OES as Callie was.
So we’ll miss you, Callie. And I’m sure that next year when we’re all sitting in a circle listening to Kara munch contentedly on cold carrots, we’ll be thinking back to the good old days. Come back soon.