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The Legacy of a Lifelong Friendship: The Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship Dinner.

The Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship (CIF) is rooted in a story of lifelong friendship between two young boys living in Newton, Mass. David Feldman and Dr. Ted J. Chamberlain were raised four houses away from each other and spent thousands of hours together in childhood. “Our friendship continued throughout adulthood; our wives are friendly, our children are friendly, their spouses are friendly, our grandchildren are friendly,” Feldman said. 

Their friendship stretched beyond time as well as religious differences, for both Feldman and Chamberlain maintained differing faith backgrounds throughout their friendship. Feldman was raised in a Reformed Jewish tradition; meanwhile, Chamberlain was raised in the Baptist sect of Protestantism. 

Despite these differences, both men maintained a wide worldview and held a deep respect for other religious traditions in the midst of adhering to their own. In addition to this, Chamberlain served 28 years as Eastern University’s Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Development. During this time at Eastern, Chamberlain was well-known for his deep faith and how he used his faith to forge meaningful relationships with people from all walks of life. After Chamberlain’s untimely passing in 2010, many of the people who knew Chamberlain commemorated the legacy he left behind. 

In 2014, as a result of the wisdom of David and Sydney Feldman, faith and academic leaders from Eastern University and Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Mass. were brought together to contemplate the prospect of establishing a fellowship inspired by Chamberlain’s legacy. Thus, this eventually resulted in the formal establishment of the Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship.

Annually, four Eastern students and four students from Temple Beth Shalom formulate a cohort that receives the opportunity to “learn about each other’s faith tradition; reflect upon commonalities and differences in the spirit of emerging friendship; grow spiritually, emotionally and intellectually; and engage in a social justice project for the common good of society and the world,” Chamberlain Award & Interfaith Fellowship says. 

On April 8, the CIF reception transpired in Eastern’s Baird Library. Members of Eastern University and members of Temple Beth Shalom gathered together as a unified community. Dr. Modica opened the reception with opening remarks and warm welcomes to all. President Ron Matthews provided a thoughtful reflection that correlated the importance of interfaith dialogue, relating this to current events across the globe. Before attendees received their Sodexo-catered meal, Rachel Happel, Temple Beth Shalom’s Senior Director of Learning and Engagement, and Jaclyn Favaroso, CIF Alumni Association member, provided both a Jewish and Christian prayer. 

Unbeknownst to many attendees, David Feldman would be receiving an award upon being named a Northwestern Mutual Insurance Community Service Award recipient. The provider of this award, Northwestern Mutual, is a financial service company that awards $310,000 in grants to nonprofits nationally through its Community Service Awards. As the visionary of CIF, Feldman’s commitment to “loving thy neighbor” has garnered well-deserved appreciation. Luisa Wilsman, Vice President of Advancement, and Eastern University President Ron Matthews presented Feldman with a $15,000 grant which will help fund the continuation and progression of CIF. 

Feldman accepted this award with gracious words of commemoration towards his friendship with Dr. Chamberlain and celebration towards the future dialogues and relationships that will be established thanks to CIF. 

In addition to this award, the reception held a special presentation in order to celebrate the seventh year of CIF. A miniature version of Timothy Schmaltz’s “Christ Washing Peter’s Feet” sculpture was presented to Liria Chamberlain, Dr. Ted Chamberlain’s wife. Dr. Bettie Ann Brigham, friend and colleague of the Chamberlain family, and Dr. Modica presented Liria Chamberlain with a miniature sculpture with a plaque that stated: “Deep Friendships, Shared Learning, ‘Holy Envy.’” 

As the CIF reception came to a close, new CIF cohort members meshed with former cohort members. The Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship’s origins are centered on the lifelong friendship between two people, and this friendship will continue onwards through the lives of current and future CIF cohorts.

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