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“To Model the Virtue of Neighborly Love”: Looking at the Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship

      Eastern welcomed the 2016-17 cohort of Chamberlain Interfaith Fellows from Temple Beth Shalom (located in Needham, Massachusetts) to campus from Tuesday, April 18 until Friday, April 21. It is with great curiosity that I speak with Eastern Fellow Anthony Barr, who tells me about his experiences with this “interfaith partnership of shared learning and growth.”

How and why did you become involved with the Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship?

      “I first heard about the Fellowship from my friend Morgan Hess, who was part of the first cohort of Eastern students to participate in the Fellowship. She had a wonderful time as a Fellow, and she told me she thought I’d really enjoy it as well. I was excited to apply for several reasons. First, I took Hebrew 1 and 2 with Dr. Putnam and was eager to hear more prayers and liturgy in this beautiful language. Second, the more conversations I have with others, the more I learn how much I don’t know and how much need I have of the wisdom of others. I think that we as Christians have a lot to learn from the Jewish tradition which has been engaging with serious questions and offering beautiful prayer for centuries and centuries, and I was so excited by the opportunity to engage with this tradition through friendship and conversation with Jewish students and clergy. Third, I know that historically Christianity (and, in particular, my tradition of Roman Catholicism) has not always acted in a Christ-like manner toward our Jewish neighbors, and so I was hopeful that this Fellowship would be an opportunity for us Eastern Fellows to model Christ-like love.”

What was your experience like at Temple Beth Shalom (you traveled in October, correct)? What did you learn?

      “Yes, we traveled to Boston in October, driving eight hours together in one car, which afforded us with ample time to converse and laugh. Perhaps the greatest moment of bonding between we Eastern Fellows and Dr. Modica was over a shared lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings!

      “We had an absolute blast at Temple Beth Shalom. The Shabbat service on Friday night was mesmerizing, and it was such a blessing to participate with the greater community in such a reverence-filled encounter with God. We also had the opportunity to see an unfurled Torah scroll and even to hold it–quite the experience as it weighed about 50 pounds! I think my favorite learning experience was when we were taught about Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, which our Jewish friends celebrated during our time in Boston. Sukkot calls us to remember the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert and to think about our own spiritual journey as a pilgrimage.”

Why are these partnerships important (more generally)?

      “In his book ‘Not in God’s Name,’ Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explores the perennial issue of violence perpetuated by adherents of one religion against adherents of another. Rabbi Sacks explores the psychology of group-think, which divides the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ and calls us instead to see the stranger as someone who should be welcomed as a friend. He writes that ‘a humanitarian as opposed to a group ethic requires the most difficult of all imaginative exercises: role reversal–putting yourself in the place of those you despise, or pity, or simply do not understand.’ I think that partnerships like the Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship provide us with the opportunity to practice that role reversal and in so doing to build a shared understanding between disparate traditions while enabling meaningful friendships to form.”

Why is the Chamberlain Interfaith Fellowship important (more specifically)? What does this partnership mean for the Eastern community?

      “The Fellowship is named after the late Dr. Ted Chamberlain and commemorates both his life and legacy and the deep interfaith friendship between Dr. Chamberlain and David Feldman (our generous benefactor). The ethos of this Fellowship is thus tied to a rich personal history. It is truly both a blessing and an honor to participate in this great work of bridge-building between traditions as well as between particular institutions, namely Eastern University and Temple Beth Shalom. It is my hope that this partnership will continue to model the virtue of neighborly love for our whole community here and that through this model all of us students will be encouraged to share the love of God with everyone we meet.”

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