Check it Out: An inside look at Eastern University’s Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship

By: Caden Coutz

My name is Caden Coutz, and I am writing to bring attention to the beautiful works that God is doing within the Chamberlin Interfaith Fellowship, also known as CIF. For those of you who have never heard of the Chamberlin Interfaith Fellowship, it consists of 6 members who all together make up the 8th cohort of this fellowship at Eastern. We are then connected with Jewish friends up at Temple Beth Shalom, right outside of Boston, MA. 

The striving goal of this fellowship is to honor the late Dr. Ted Chamberlin, who was once the Dean of Students here at Eastern University. One of the biggest attributes of Dr. Chamberlain was his willingness to explore the lives of others that may be different from his own. One of his childhood friends was a man by the name of David Feldman. David grew up Jewish as Dr. Chamberlin grew up Christian, and they grew up together. Looking back on their relationship, Feldman says that he “marveled at his [Dr. Chamberlain’s] ability to maintain a strong faith while relating to people from all walks of life.” After Dr. Chamberlain passed away in 2010,  Feldman and Dr. Modica paired up with people both at Temple Beth Shalom and Eastern to form what is now the Chamberlin Interfaith Fellowship, which has been created to give students the opportunity and experience to learn about Judaism in order to strengthen our own faith. 

We have been meeting as a club this semester to start learning about Judaism in preparation for our trip to the Temple that we took in the second weekend of November. We left Eastern early in the morning and arrived at Temple Beth Shalom in the early evening of the same day, where we were each greeted by our corresponding Jewish friends who made up the other half of the CIF Cohort. We were given multiple opportunities throughout the weekend to break into one-on-one groups so that we were able to explore Judaism by asking our own questions, and they were able to inquire about the Christian faith through us as well. 

As one of the students from Temple Beth Shalom said, “I feel like I learned a lot about my own religion and practice even though I’ve grown up with Judaism in my life.” It showed us that by taking a step back and learning about different religions we can find a better purpose or appreciation for our own faith or religion. 

Throughout the weekend, we also got the chance to learn about different practices they perform and when they do them. One of the biggest differences is when they conduct their services. As Christians, we typically wake up on a Sunday morning and go to a worship service. Sunday is also our day of rest, or our sabbath. Within Judaism, they will go to their worship service on a Friday night, which is also when their day of rest starts as well. Another difference is that they call their day or period of rest “Shabot.”  These are just some of the aspects of both Christianity and Judaism that differ from the two religions. 

While we were there we also got to attend their weekly worship service, as they refer to it as a “Shabot Service.” It was a great experience to see how they conduct their worship and see the difference between their form of worship and my own worship.

Toward the end of the service, Dr. Modica shared his gratitude on behalf of himself and the Eastern students. Within his speech, Dr. Modica talked about how important the Fellowship is and what it means to him. He also said, “The Chamberlin Interfaith Fellowship is something the world needs more of, to combat Anti-Semitism.” If we can bring more awareness to the Jewish community, it will help to make the world more inviting to Judaism. 

Taking a look at the big picture of the weekend, the idea of unity is a clear lesson to be learned. Jessica Nielsen, an Eastern alum and member of the fellowship’s third cohort once said “Friendships formed between people of diverse backgrounds will not always form the same way.” Being able to have fellowship with different walks of life is such a rewarding experience and should be encouraged more often.

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